In January 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the War on Poverty, a collection of ideals that ultimately laid the foundation for ANA. President Johnson made a call to action, asking communities to prepare “long-range plans for the attack on poverty.” Eight months later, the Economic Opportunity Act was signed into law, and shortly thereafter the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) began awarding grants.

Early in the 1970s, the Office of Economic Opportunity was terminated, but many of its War on Poverty concepts became the basis for ANA. Established in 1974 through the Native American Programs Act (NAPA), this new agency also embraced the goal of Native American self-determination, first endorsed by President Johnson in 1968 and later by President Richard Nixon. ANA serves all Native American populations.