As of 2015, eligibility for federal benefits varies among programs, and there is no single standard or requirement that determines a person's Indian status, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. An individual's degree of Indian heritage is just one criteria. Other factors include knowledge of the linguistic, historical, cultural and religious aspects of a federally recognized Indian nation.Continue Reading
The Bureau of Indian Affairs provides benefits to Indians in many forms, including the Guaranteed Indian Loan Program, the maintenance of infrastructure on Indian lands, the administration of Indian leases and estates, the operation of employment and training programs, and natural resource management programs, according to its website. Individuals qualify for access to these services based on their membership in an Indian nation that the U.S. government recognizes. Because they are also U.S. citizens, eligible Indians have access to the social services, health programs, welfare and education available to all U.S. citizens.
In 1994, Congress passed legislation that established three procedures for Indian nations to acquire federal recognition, as the Bureau of Indian Affairs details. Acts of Congress, federal court decisions or administrative procedures from the Department of the Interior can confer formal recognition on an Indian nation. The 566 federally recognized Indian nations as of 2015 retain their sovereignty while simultaneously benefiting from services, protections and benefits designed to maintain and promote their cultural legacy.Learn more about Social Services