Agency Description

The Commission on Indian Affairs was established in 1971 and consists of 14 Indian commissioners appointed by the Governor. Additionally, the commission has four “ex-officio” member representing the Pawnee tribe, Oglala Sioux, Ioway, Sac and Fox. The commission’s statutory mission is “to do all things which it may determine to enhance the cause of Indian rights and to develop solutions to problems common to all Nebraska Indians.” It is the state liaison between the four headquarter tribes of the Omaha, Ponca, Santee Sioux and Winnebago Tribes of Nebraska. It helps ensure the sovereignty of both tribal and state governments are recognized and acted upon in a true government-to-government relationship. The commission serves off-reservation Indian communities by helping assure they are afforded the right to equitable opportunities in the areas of housing, employment, education, health care, economic development and human/civil rights within Nebraska. All goals of the commission are accomplished through advocacy, education and promotion of legislation.

Statutory Authority

The Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs (NCIA) was created by LB 904 of the 82nd session of the Nebraska Legislature on May 22, 1971. The Indian Commission statutes are outlined in sections 81-2504 R.R.S.


Sovereignty of both Tribal and State governments are recognized and acted upon by both in a true government-to-government relationship. Each of the Nebraska’s Indian citizens and their families be afforded the right to enjoy equitable opportunities, as do their non-Indian counterparts, in the areas of housing, employment, education, health care, economic development, and human/civil rights. To educate and sensitize the general public, educators, school-age youth, and legislators to the unique status of Tribes and Indian citizens; and the issues that effect them.

Mission and Principles

“The purpose of the Commission shall be to join representatives of all Indians in Nebraska to do all things which it may determine to enhance the case of Indian Rights and to develop solutions to the problems common to all Nebraska Indians.” Respect for the Sovereignty of Tribal and State government has an active role to play in the education of Nebraskans to the unique status of Tribes and Indian citizens; the many and varied ways Indian people have and continue to contribute to Nebraska history; to the issues that impact Nebraska’s Indian citizens in significant and often devastating ways; to identify and address cultural barriers that impact Indians in Nebraska.


Actively promote state and federal legislation beneficial to Tribes and Indian citizens in Nebraska, and monitor and assess their impact. Assist in development and implementation of state and federal programs that provide equitable services and opportunities for Nebraska’s Indian families in the areas of housing, employment, economic development, health, human services, law and order, tribal sovereignty, and civil/human rights. Educate legislators, educators, school-age youth and the general public on the issues and legislation that impacts Indian country in Nebraska; especially government and private resources to improve the lives of Nebraska’s Indian citizens.

What We Do…

Program Objectives:

  • Identify and eliminate barriers for Nebraska tribes and Indian citizens in the areas of housing, employment, education, health care, economic development and human/civil rights.
  • Promote and effectively mobilize government and private sector resources to improve equitable opportunities for Indians in Nebraska.
  • Educate legislators, youth and the general public on the issues and legislation that impact Nebraska’s tribes, Indian citizens and their families.
  • Apprise the Governor of the climate in the Native American community at the state and national level.
  • Foster diversity and cultural sensitivity with Nebraska State Legislature.
  • Advance sovereignty issues within the state.
  • Promote state and federal legislation.
  • Coordinate existing programs: housing, education, welfare, medical and dental care, employment, economic development, law and order.
  • Work with other state and federal government agencies and federal and state elected officials.

Program Description: The Commission’s five-year plan is developed from meetings held with tribal leaders and off-reservation Indian communities to determine priorities. Specific areas currently identified for focus are youth/family/elders, economic development, governance and public relations. Additionally, the Commission seeks to promote within Nebraska opportunities for self-sufficiency for Indian people.

Frequently Asked Questions

Listed below are some of the most commonly asked questions related to Native Americans in Nebraska, Tribal enrollment, American Indian Benefits and Services, Legal Assistance, and State/Federal Recognition for Tribes.

How many American Indians reside in Nebraska?

According to the 2010 census, Native Americans comprise about 1% of the Nebraska population, depending on how individuals identify themselves.

Approximately 10,875 Native Americans reside on Nebraska’s reservations (i.e., Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska, and Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska) and within two tribal service areas (i.e., the Oglala Sioux Tribe, through the Chadron Native American Center Service Area, and the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, through Nebraska’s Ponca Service Areas) (see Figure 3).

The Chadron Native American Center provides services and programming for the nearly 2,500 Nebraska residents of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who primarily reside in a four-county area of the state’s panhandle region.

The Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska is headquartered at Niobrara, Nebraska. The tribe’s reservation lands have a population of more than 775 individuals, of whom more than one-third reside in the village of Santee, Nebraska. According to Gibbon (2007), the Sioux belief system is underpinned by the values and traits essential for successful nomadic bison hunting on the northern Great Plains, including individuality, bravery, sacrifice, and vision seeking. As a result of increasing settlement by Europeans during the 19th century, bison – the foundation of the Sioux economy – were virtually eradicated by the 1880s, to devastating effect on tribal life. Currently throughout the Sioux nation, tribal leaders are pursuing numerous economic development and capacity-building projects to provide tribal members with the skills and resources necessary to compete in the global economy while sustaining their tribal heritage and traditions.

The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska has about 5,200 members, of whom nearly 3,000 reside on the Omaha Reservation at Macy, Nebraska. Among the various tribes living in Nebraska when white settlers first made their way into the region, the Omaha are the only Native Americans still inhabiting their ancient lands. According to Awakuni-Swetland (2007), the Omaha people followed a “complex schedule…of seasonal movements” that allowed them to cultivate “substantial gardens of maize, beans, and other cultigens, while conducting large-scale communcal bison hunts” on the plains of Nebraska and Kansas. While many tribe members make their home on the Omaha Reservation, others reside in nearby Omaha and Lincoln. Today, Omaha traditions are honored during an annual encampment and pow-wow, and the Omaha Tribal Council provides leadership and governance for a number of social and economic development efforts intended to further revive tribal culture and prosperity.

The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, also headquartered at Niobrara, Nebraska, provides services and support to more than 2,000 members. The Ponca settled in the Niobrara River valley of northeastern Nebraska during the early 18th century, engaging in communal traditions of maize horticulture and bison hunting. Due to the devastating effects of epidemic diseases that ravaged the Ponca community during the 19th century, tribe members occasionally pursued bison hunting full-time in favor of regular agricultural practice; however, the Poncas “never abandoned their homeland…and they continued to return to their sacred sites, villages, and gardens on a regular basis” (Gibbon, 2007). While the Ponca entered into four treaties with the U.S. government, the tribe was disbanded during 1962 in response to federal termination policy. Congress restored Ponca tribal status during 1990; however, the Ponca people were left without a residential land base. As a result, the Ponca tribe provides support and programming for its members in a service area encompassing 12 counties in Nebraska and three in Iowa and South Dakota. Currently, the Ponca Tribe is pursuing a number of economic development and cultural revitalization initiatives, such as the founding of the Ponca Health and Wellness Center in Omaha, Nebraska, the reintroduction of bison on tribal lands near Niobrara (Ritter, 2007), and a collaboration with fluent southern Ponca speakers on language preservation using language software and phrase-o-laters used by Department of Defense language specialists during the Iraq war.

The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, with approximately 2,600 members, has its headquarters on the Winnebago Indian Reservation, which lies in the northern half of Thurston County in northeast Nebraska. The largest community on the reservation is the village of Winnebago. Located on the eastern side of the Reservation, Winnebago is home to most Winnebago (or Ho-Chunk) tribal members and accounts for almost 30 percent of the Reservation’s resident population. The Winnebago are native to the Wisconsin and Illinois regions. Through a series of moves by the federal government throughout the course of the 19th century, the tribe was moved to reservations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota and finally in Nebraska. Today, the tribe’s primary economic sectors center on health and education services, manufacturing, agriculture, public administration, and retail trade (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, 2010).


Last updated on April 16, 2013 by Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs
How many state and federally recognized tribes are located in Nebraska?

There are four federally recognized tribes with headquarters located in Nebraska:

Santee Sioux Nation
Chairman Alonzo Denney
(402) 857-2772

Omaha Tribe of Nebraska
Chairman Leander Merrick
(402) 837-5391

Ponca Tribe of Nebraska
Chairwoman Candace Schmidt
(402) 857-3391

Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska
Chairwoman Victoria Kitcheyan
(402) 878-2272

The Ioway Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri have service areas in both Kansas and Nebraska with tribal headquarters in Kansas; and the Oglala Sioux Tribe also owns land in Nebraska with many tribal members living in Nebraska, but tribal headquarters are in South Dakota. Recently, land was returned to the Pawnee near Dannebrog, Nebraska although their headquarters are in Oklahoma. Click here to see a full list of federally recognized tribes.


Last updated on December 28, 2022 by Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs
How do I enroll in a tribe?
Contact the specific tribe of your origin to ask about the procedure for tribal enrollment. The tribe will require those seeking tribal enrollment to provide documentation of their family genealogy, which describes how one is connected to the tribe by blood or marriage. Only the tribe can determine enrollment; the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs cannot determine enrollment.

For more information, visit the Bureau of Indian Affairs website about the tribal enrollment process.


Last updated on June 11, 2012 by Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.
How do I research my family genealogy?
The U.S. Department of Interior website provides a wealth of information on researching genealogy.Please refer to their website for more information by clicking here.


Last updated on June 11, 2012 by Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.
How do I contact a tribal entity?

The Tribal Leaders Directory of the Bureau of Indian Affairs provides a tribes’ name, address, phone, and fax number for each of the 565 Federally-recognized Tribes. Click anywhere on the map to get to the Directory.


Last updated on December 28, 2022 by Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.
What kinds of benefits are American Indians eligible for?

The U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, through its government-to-government relationship with federally recognized tribes, carries out the Federal Government’s unique and continuing relationship with and responsibility to tribes and Indian people. Indian Affairs programs support and assist federally recognized tribes in the development of tribal governments, strong economies, and quality programs. The scope of Indian Affairs programs is extensive and includes a range of services comparable to the programs of state and local government, e.g., education, social services, law enforcement, courts, real estate services, agriculture and range management, and resource protection.

Many Federal agencies other than the Indian Affairs have special programs to serve the American Indian population, i.e., the Indian Health Service (IHS), an adjunct of the Public Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The IHS provides health care services through a network of reservation-based hospitals and clinics. Besides standard medical care, the agency has established programs that specialize in maternal and child health, mental health, substance abuse, home health care, nutrition, etc. The Administration for Native Americans, another agency within HHS, administers programs aimed at strengthening tribal governments and supporting the social and economic development of reservation communities. Other agencies of the Federal Government that serves the special needs of Indian people include the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Agriculture, Education, Labor, Commerce and Energy.

All American Indians & Alaska Natives, whether they live on or off reservations, are eligible (like all other citizens who meet eligibility requirements) to receive services provided by the state such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Additionally, Native Americans living in Nebraska may be eligible to receive care at the Fred LeRoy Health and Wellness Center in Omaha, Nebraska, the Ponca Hills Health and Wellness Center in Norfolk, Nebraska or the Lincoln Health & Wellness Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Visit the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska website for more information or call the Health Center directly at 402-734-5275 (Omaha), 402-371-8780 (Norfolk) or 531-248-3030 (Lincoln).


Last updated on December 28, 2022 by Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.
Do American Indians pay state and federal income taxes?
Yes. American Indians are United States citizens and they do pay income taxes, except for wages paid to them by some federally-recognized tribes.


Last updated on June 11, 2012 by Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.
Do American Indians receive a cash payment from the United States Government?
No. However, the federal government might pay certain tribes’ royalties for leased properties, mining rights, water rights, etc. Such funds are usually paid directly to federally-recognized tribal governments and are disbursed as they see fit.


Last updated on June 11, 2012 by Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.
Who can I contact for legal assistance?

Please see our Resources page for a listing of organizations to contact for legal assistance.


Last updated on June 11, 2012 by Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.
How does a tribe obtain federal recognition?
Contact the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, DC to request a copy of the federal recognition criteria.


Last updated on June 11, 2012 by Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.