Frequently Asked Questions:


What does the term “federally recognized” mean?

Only tribes who maintain a legal relationship to the U.S. government through binding treaties, acts of Congress, executive orders, etc., are officially “recognized” by the federal government. Once “recognized” a tribe has a legal relationship with the United States. There are currently more than 550 federally recognized tribes in the United States, including some 200-village groups in Alaska. However, there are still hundreds of tribal groups undergoing the lengthy and tedious process of applying
for federal recognition.

What does “tribal sovereignty” mean and why is it so important to American Indians?

Tribal sovereignty describes the right of federally recognized tribes to govern themselves and the existence of a government-to-government relationship with the United States. Thus a tribe is described as a dependant nation with the right to form its own government, adjudicate legal cases within its borders, levy taxes within its borders, establish its membership and decide its own future fate. The federal government has a trust responsibility to protect tribal lands, assets, resources and treaty rights.

What is a reservation?

In the U.S., there are several kinds of reserved lands; two more well known include military and Indian reservations. An Indian reservation is a land base that a tribe reserved for itself when it relinquished its other land areas to the U.S. through treaties. More recently, Congressional acts, executive orders and administrative acts have created reservations.

Who is an American Indian?

As a general principle an American Indian is a person who is a descendant of recognized native groups and an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe or village. While there exists no universally accepted rule for establishing a person’s identity as an American Indian,the criteria for tribal membership differs from one tribe to the next. As sovereign governments, each tribe determines its own eligibility and membership standards and criteria. To determine a particular tribe’s membership eligibility, one must contact that tribe directly. For its own purposes, the Bureau of the Census counts anyone as an Indian who declares to be such. By recent counts, there are currently more than two million American Indians, including Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiians.

Why are American Indians sometimes referred to as Native Americans?

When referring to American Indians or Alaska Natives, it is appropriate to use the terms American Indians and Alaska Natives. These terms denote the cultural distinction between the indigenous people of the continental United States and those of Alaska. While the term “Native Americans” came into usage in the 1960s out of respect for American Indians and Alaska Natives, usage of the term has expanded to include all Native people of the United States and its territories, including Native Hawaiians and American Samoans.

What is an Indian tribe?

An Indian tribe was originally a body of people bound together by blood ties who were socially, politically, and religiously organized, who lived together in a defined territory and who spoke a common language or dialect. In the eyes of the U.S. government a body of people as described above must be federally recognized to be considered a tribe.


American Indian Art, Museums, Galleries & Gift Shops

For generations, American Indians have passed on rich artistic traditions, knowledge and skills. American Indian culture is woven into the fabric of Nevada’s heritage. Washoe, Northern Paiute, Southern Paiute and Western Shoshone art colors our homes, schools, businesses and museums.

Treasured artifacts blend with modern American Indian art in museums and galleries across Nevada. From brightly colored beadwork to finely crafted basketry, each piece contributes

to the ongoing story of the Washoe, Northern Paiute, Southern Paiute and Western
Shoshone people. 

For a listing of American Indian artists and artisans that live in Nevada, please visit our
artist listing page at:

Purchasing Authentic Art

Under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, all American Indian/Alaska Native arts and crafts products must be marketed truthfully regarding the American Indian heritage and tribal affiliation of the artist or craftsperson.

Shop Wisely – Tips For Buying

  1. When purchasing from a dealer, shop wisely and choose one with a good reputation.
  2. Request a written guarantee or written verification of authenticity.
  3. Get a receipt that includes all the vital information about your purchase, including price and maker’s tribal affiliation.
  4. Familiarize yourself with different materials and types of American Indian arts and crafts, as well as the indicators of a
    well-made, handcrafted piece.
  5. Realize that authentic handmade pieces may be expensive. If a price seems too good to be true, be sure to ask more questions
    about the item and its maker.

(Taken from the U.S. Department of Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board.

Visitor Guidelines

Nevada’s tribal communities welcome visitors. The following guidelines will help travelers enjoy their visit while honoring the people, lands and culture. A visit to the tribal administration offices for additional information is recommended.

American Indian communities comprise a diversity of tribal members who practice varying degrees of tradition. Traditionalists expect tribal members and visitors to conduct themselves in a manner that is respectful of tribal religion and ceremonies. With this in mind, it must be recognized that a code of conduct practiced at one community or event may not be appropriate at another.

Some communities may have policies about picture taking, sketching and audio/video recording. Visitors should always ask
for permission.

Moral precepts in appropriate dress, speech and behavior, and adherence to them, are highly regarded at ceremonial events. An unkempt appearance can be offensive where many people wear their finest.

Do not disturb sites that contain devotions or offerings. These include pipes, bundles, ties, flags of colored material, food offerings and other items. These sites are considered sacred.

The ancestors of today’s tribes left many artifacts and ruins behind. Resist the impulse to pick up souvenirs. American Indian remains and artifacts are protected federally by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which carries stiff penalties for violations.