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Working Effectively with Tribal Governments


Introduction to Tribal Concepts

Inter-tribal procession at the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall with the Washington Monument in the background.

The People

American Indian, Alaska Native, Native American. You have probably heard these terms used before, but what do they really mean? For the purposes of this training course, each of these terms can refer to a person descended from ancestors indigenous to the lands that now constitute the United States.

The term "Alaska Native" is by definition exclusive to peoples indigenous to Alaska. But as is the case for tribes located in the lower 48 states, the tribes in Alaska are culturally diverse with rich traditions rooted in their regional homelands. The language of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act (or IRA) included in its definition of an Indian, "Eskimos and other aboriginal people of Alaska."

Generally, the term "Native American" includes both American Indians of the lower 48 states and Alaska Natives.

Although some people may use the terms "Indian" or "American Indian" to refer to themselves, others prefer the term "Native American." This course will use these terms interchangeably.

Keep in mind, however, that it is generally preferable to refer to an individual as a member of his or her particular tribe.

Native American Demographics


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