The United States has a unique legal and political relationship with Indian tribes and Alaska Native entities as provided by the Constitution of the United States, treaties, court decisions and Federal statutes. Within the government-to-government relationship, Indian Affairs provides services directly or through contracts, grants, or compacts to 567 Federally recognized tribes with a service population of about 1.9 million American Indian and Alaska Natives. While the role of Indian Affairs has changed significantly in the last three decades in response to a greater emphasis on Indian self-governance and self-determination, Tribes still look to Indian Affairs for a broad spectrum of services.
The Indian Affairs offers an extensive scope of programs that covers the entire range of Federal, State and local government services. Programs administered by either Tribes or Indian Affairs through the Bureau of Indian Education include an education system consisting of 183 schools and dormitories educating approximately 42,000 elementary and secondary students and 28 tribal colleges, universities, and post-secondary schools. Programs administered through the Bureau of Indian Affairs include social services, natural resources management on trust lands representing 55 million surface acres and 57 million acres of subsurface minerals estates, economic development programs in some of the most isolated and economically depressed areas of the United States, law enforcement and detention services, administration of tribal courts, implementation of land and water claim settlements, housing improvement, disaster relief, replacement and repair of schools, repair and maintenance of roads and bridges, and the repair of structural deficiencies on high hazard dams, the BIA operates a series irrigation systems and provides electricity to rural parts of Arizona.
Through Indian Affairs programs, Tribes improve their tribal government infrastructure, community infrastructure, education, job training, and employment opportunities along with other components of long term sustainable development that work to improve the quality of life for their members.