While decolonizing accessibility and access to research materials in archives is emerging as an emphasis of scholarship, it is unclear to what extent existing decolonial frameworks operationalize Indigenous sovereignty. The primary goals of tribes and Indigenous communities revolve around sovereignty and self-determination. In the United States, decolonial approaches to archives often prioritize accessibility of collections, rather than contemplating if the accessible changes have tangible positive impacts on Indigenous user needs. In this research, the authors examine whether the intentions underlying decolonial archival work articulated in the literature contribute to a nexus of inaccessibility for Indigenous researchers seeking to assert sovereignty and/or federal acknowledgement. Federal acknowledgment is a socio-anthropological political procedure for recognition as a sovereign nation and a method for tribes to gain access to federal services. This process entangles archives in ongoing settler colonial practices antithetical to professional decolonial ethos. Through an overview of the recognition process, this research centers the politics of sovereignty as a framework to uncover the confluence of colonial logics within accessibility and archival research services. Recognition research elucidates areas of decolonial thinking that continue to remake settler colonial structures rather than enhancing accessibility for Indigenous communities of all statuses.

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