For over 120 years, the Chinook Indian Nation has been trying to prove its sovereignty to the United States government by seeking formal federal recognition. Official status acknowledges the tribe’s sovereignty and the federal government’s obligations to it as generally outlined in treaties. With federal recognition comes health care through the Indian Health Service, education through scholarships, and access to land through creation of a reservation. Today, there are 574 federally recognized tribes. Hundreds of others are unrecognized, though, with varying claims of legitimacy. The process for the Chinook has involved decades of litigation, petitions, congressional legislation and appeals to presidents — yet the tribe is still unrecognized. The impersonal bureaucracy obscures the personal urgency and pain that tribal members feel as time moves on, elders pass and children grow up.