Q&AZ: Are there any federally unrecognized Native American tribes in Arizona?

By Vaughan Jones
Published: Monday, April 4, 2022 - 7:58am
Updated: Monday, April 4, 2022 - 9:33am

Audio icon Download mp3 (1.88 MB)
Q&AZ is supported in part by Abrazo Health

Lourdes Pereira
Lourdes Pereira
Lourdes Pereira, who is Hia-Ced O’odham and Miss Indigenous Arizona State University for 2020-21, stood at Gov. Doug Ducey’s side as he signed HB 2705, which prevents schools from banning Native dress at graduation.

Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribes, out of 574 across the country.

Through KJZZ's Q&AZ project, a listener asked: Are there any federally unrecognized tribes in Arizona, and what does federal recognition mean?

While it is unknown how many tribes in Arizona go unrecognized, one tribe working to gain federal acknowledgement is the Hia-Ced O’odham.

They are currently classified as a “subtribe” of the Tohono O’odham, with approximately 1,000 living direct descendants. Their ancestral homeland includes Yuma, Ajo, Sonoita, and parts of Mexico.

David Martinez is an associate professor of American Indian studies at Arizona State University. He says recognition from the U.S. government allows tribes access to provisions from the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act.

“What that enables tribes to do, most importantly, is form tribal governments, you know, such as with a constitution, branches of government,” said Martinez.

Martinez says it also allows them to form a reservation under the Department of Interior, establish rules of membership for the tribe, and incorporate to manage their own business affairs.

Q&AZ Native American Affairs