American Indian Reservations
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A reservation is a land area governed by an American Indian tribe rather than by a state, or the United States federal government. Reservations were set aside by the United States or individual states (such as New York) for use as American Indian homelands. Some reservations are for one tribe or band, and some reservations are shared by two or more tribes. There are 310 reservations in the United States and about 550 recognized tribes, so not every tribe has its own separate reservation. A few tribes, bands, or clans live on more than one reservation. The largest is the Navajo Nation Reservation consisting of a significant portion of several large counties in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Some reservations are on tiny pieces of land not much more than a few acres surrounded by large urban areas, for example, the Las Vegas Reservation in Las Vegas, Nevada. Reservations are distributed unevenly in the United States with the bulk of them in the mountain-west states, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Oklahoma. Reservation lands make up 2.3 percent of the total land area of the United States.
The pueblos of New Mexico, the colonies of Nevada and the rancherias of California are not ordinarily referred to as "reservations," for practical purposes that is what they are and they are included in the count of reservations.
Boundary changes. The boundaries of reservations have changed over time. Usually, that means the reservations have been reduced in size. Sometimes, especially during the policy of "termination," the official status of reservations was ended altogether.
Less than half now live on reservations. In 2012 only about 1 million of the approximately 2.5 million American Indians lived on reservations. Nevertheless, many genealogical researchers who have American Indian ancestors know of a reservation where such an ancestor once lived.
For further reading see:
- Confederation of American Indians, Indian Reservations: a State and Federal Handbook (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., c1986). At various repositories (WorldCat); FHL Book 970.1 In2.
- Veronica E. Velarde Tiller, American Indian Reservations and Trust Areas ([Washington, D.C.]: Economic Development Administration, U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 1996). At various repositories (WorldCat); FHL Ref Book 970.1 T463a.
Finding records. Usually, it is best to first look for records of American Indian ancestors in regular non-Indian-types of records such as births, marriages, deaths, church records, cemeteries, censuses, and military records. After searching regular records of the general population where an ancestor lived, a researcher is better prepared to turn to more specialized American Indian sources.
If you know the reservation where an ancestor lived, use that information to determine the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agency, and the tribe(s) usually associated with that reservation. The majority American Indian-specific records which can be used for genealogical research were created by an Indian ancestor's BIA agency. Use the reservation, tribe, and BIA agency information to help identify which agency records to research. Many BIA agency records also are available from the National Archives, its branches, or from the Family History Library.
Evolution of BIA agencies. The BIA agencies responsible for the various reservations changed over time. To learn more about the evolving organization of BIA agencies, and their connection with tribes, BIA superintendencies, and American Indian records see:
Wiki List of Reservations
For an alphabetical list of those reservations in the United States which are described in this Wiki, see the Category:American Indian Reservations.
Key to the Reservations Map
These key numbers correspond with the numbers on the map of "continental" (i.e. contiguous) United States reservations below. For example, this key shows the #32 reservation on the map (in South Carolina) is the "Catawba" Reservation.
1. Absentee Shawnee OK
81. Fort McDermitt NV/OR
161. Nisqually WA
241. Shinnecock NY
To enlarge this map, click on it, pause, and then click on it again.
Reservations in Alaska
Alaska has six additional American Indian reservations:
- Annette Islands Reservation; Federal, under the jurisdiction of Metlakatla Field Office, Tribes: Tsimposhian
- Craig Reservation: State, under the jurisdiction of Prince of Wales Island, Tribe: Tlingit
- Hoonah Reservation: State, under the jurisdiction of Chichagof Island, Tribe: Tlingit
- Hydaburg Reservation: State, under the jurisdiction of Prince of Wales Island, Tribe: Haida
- Kake Reservation: State, under the jurisdiction of Kupreanof Island, Tribe: Tlingit
- Klawock Reservation: State, under the jurisdiction of Prince of Wales Island, Tribe: Tlingit
- Indian reservations in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 5 June 2015).
- File:Bia-map-indian-reservations-usa.png in Wikimedia Commons (accessed 5 June 2015).
- Confederation of American Indians, Indian Reservations : a State and Federal Handbook (Jefferson, North Carolina : McFarland & Co., c1986), 1-7. At various repositories (WorldCat); FHL Book 970.1 In2.