Tribes are governmental and political entities, not racial groups. This is a principle embedded in U.S. law from the very beginning and explicitly recognized by the Supreme Court in Morton v. Mancari in 1977. This is the law of the land. Concerningly, however, reports in recent weeks indicate that the Department of Health and Human Services is now denying tribes’ requests to be exempt from some new Medicaid work requirements based on the claim that an exception for tribes would be an illegal racial preference.
For some time, we have been studying the history of the law in this area. In our study we have found no support – not in the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court nor in the pronouncements of Congress – for treating tribes as racial groups.
Take a look: Morton v. Mancari Memorandum; May 3, 2018