Nation, Tribe, and Band


A Native American Elder, “Standing Bear”, makes these comments about Native American Nations and Tribes, “Many people are often confused by the two terms, Nation and Tribe.  Even tribal officials often use them interchangeably.  However, there is a difference. Our definition says a “nation” is a composite of two or more tribes.

For example:  The Sioux Nation is composed of seven tribes and many bands — just as the U.S. has many states that make up the nation.  A tribe can be a quasi-independent entity, completely independent, or somewhere in between. However, contrary to its own history, the Cherokee Nation does not have any lower tribal political entities and thus does not fit well into our definition. 

Therefore, we further define a nation in modern terms as having government-to-government relationships, constitutional authority, elected rather than appointed officers and a base territory. A tribe may or may not meet all these and other criteria. But, all this is a modern definition, so therefore we revert back to our first definition above regardless of the many exceptions that exist today.” – Lee “Standing Bear” Moore

I would go further to state that a Band is simply a grouping amongst a Tribe that generally consists of a small kinship group, much like an extended family or a Clan. Where as, Nations and Tribes have very formal leadership and social institutions, Bands are very informal in leadership.

What distinguishes a Nation, Tribe, and Band is generally the size with a Nation being the largest grouping of Native Americans and the Band the smallest.

 So, as you search for your Native American affiliation be sure to ask about your Nation, Tribe, and/or Band.

Article by: CherokeeCloud

Written: August 26, 2006

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