Office of Indian Services - Division of Tribal Operations

The Bureau of Indian Affair’s mission is to enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian Tribes, and Alaska Natives. We accomplish this through the delivery of quality services and maintaining government-to-government relationships with the spirit of Indian self-determination.

The mission of the Division of Tribal Operations is to promote awareness of tribal governmental responsibilities and processes, and to provide tribes with the resources they need to foster strong and stable tribal governments while exercising their rights as sovereign nations. Tribal Government funds are used to staff regional offices, agencies and provide resources to tribes performing Indian self-determination contracts at the tribal/agency level. Tribes use Aid to Tribal Government (ATG) funds to directly support the activities of the tribal contractor/tribal officials in carrying out activities that the Bureau provided to the tribe.

The mission of the Division of Tribal Operations, Pacific Region, is to maintain the government-to-government relationship between the Federal government and Federally-recognized tribes as well as assisting individual Indians when appropriate. This office provides technical assistance and policy directives and guidelines to the field on review and processing of tribal organic documents, referendums, grant applications, tribal enrollment, tribal elections, tribal ordinances, economic development, and with regard to contractible tribal entities, review P. L. 93-638 grants and contracts and special project designed to strengthen tribal capacity for self-government.

The Regional Tribal Operations staff provides technical assistance to other branches of the Pacific Regional Office, as well as the Southern, Central, Northern California, and Palm Springs Agencies, regarding tribal government issues. The Regional Tribal Operations program is a critical function because this Region has more Federally Recognized Tribes than any other BIA region, currently 104 tribes. In addition to Federally recognized Tribes there are a large number of unrecognized tribal groups in California pursuing Federal recognition. There are five groups that were terminated and may request to become federally recognized tribal groups with two pursuing court action for restoration. The Pacific Region also has the 1972 California Judgment Payment trust account that will need to be disbursed to eligible individuals.

Tribal Operations functions can be broken down into four primary mission-related areas.


1. Federal Tribal Operations Functions;
a. Governing document review and related functions required by Federal law.

2. Tribal-Required Functions;
a. Governing document reviews and related functions required by tribal law.

3. Self-determination Technical Assistance;
a. Technical assistance, referrals, and non-mandatory core governing document reviews (governing document, election ordinances and enrollment ordinances, guidance on policies and procedures).

4. Management of Trust Assets
a. Continued research and distribution efforts to ensure judgment fund beneficiaries of Indian descent receive the funds to which they are entitled, related to historical, pending, and future distributions.

In addition to the four primary mission-related areas the Division of Tribal Operations must also be responsive to a variety of requests. Tribal Operations responds to general inquiries from the public, state or other federal entities, and inquiries involving Federal litigation, Orders from Interior Board of Indian Appeals, Freedom of Information Acts requests, and Congressional Inquiries. In addition, Tribal Operations maintains the Pacific Regional Tribal Leaders Directory, and works with tribal governments in the preparation of the tribal entities listing for publication in the Federal Register.

Lastly, the Division of Tribal Operations responds to individual Indian requests such as requests for Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB), roll number verifications, completion of SF 4432 – Indian Preference Hiring, verification of individual Indians on the California Judgment Rolls, and verifications of California Indian ancestry. Further, Tribal Operations provides verification for the state of California free fishing licenses for California Indians and DMV tax exemption verifications.