The Indian Incentive Program, Buy Indian Act, Native Owned certification, and Tribal and Indian Preference are several business certifications and programs that are uniquely available to individual Native, Tribal, and Alaska Native owned businesses. These certifications and programs are not as a result of ethnicity, but based on treaty rights, and the government to government relationships between the U.S. government and federally recognized sovereign  Native governments.

These government to government relations have legal rights and privileges. Therefore, in order to make use of these programs, an individual business owner must be an enrolled member of a federally recognized Tribe. Falsely representing Tribal enrollment to the federal government constitutes fraud and is punishable by law. Tribal enterprises must also be owned by a federally recognized Tribe.

There are other criteria that MUST be met in order to qualify as a Native owned business. The business must be 51% or more owned by a Native individual or Tribal entity. If applicable, in community property states, the business owner’s spouse must sign paperwork relinquishing their claim to ownership. The Native owner has to show control over the finances, management and operations, and be the highest paid employee. Not having these results in adverse control by another party and will disqualify the business from being Native owned.

Having these prerequisites and qualifications is necessary in order to prevent fraud, pass through “fronts”, and to promote viable Native businesses.¬† As there are advantages and markets available to Native owned business, individuals and Tribes should always do their due diligence in researching business propositions, opportunities and partners. If the above criteria is not met, be aware that it will not qualify as a Native-owned business.


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