Criteria for Recognition

The Mohegan Tribe is one of a few tribes that have been able to meet the most rigorous 1978 Bureau of Indian Affairs standards for recognition as a sovereign Indian tribe. While the fairness of these standards is being debated, the Mohegan Tribe is proud of the vast proof of its continuous existence.


Under the BIA's regulations, a tribe may petition the interior secretary for recognition. The petition must meet seven criteria. It must contain:

  1. A statement of facts establishing that the tribe has been identified from historical times until the present on a substantially continuous basis as "American Indian" or "aboriginal;"
  2. Evidence that a substantial portion of the group inhabits a specific area or lives in a community viewed as American Indian and distinct from other populations in the area, and that its members are descendants of an Indian tribe which historically inhabited a specific area;
  3. Evidence that the tribe has maintained tribal political authority or influence over its members as an autonomous entity throughout history until the present;
  4. A copy of the tribe's governing document, including membership criteria, or, if it does not have a formal governing document, a description of its membership criteria and governing procedures;
  5. An official membership list, any available former lists, and evidence that current members descend from a historic tribe or tribes that combined into a single autonomous political entity;
  6. Evidence that the tribe consists mainly of people who are not members of an acknowledged North American Indian tribe; and
  7. A statement that the tribe is not the subject of the congressional legislation that has terminated or forbidden the federal trust relationship (per 25 CFR Part 83. 7a-g)*.
* These were the standards in place in 1994, when the Mohegan Tribe was recognized. They have since changed.
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