Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) develops as a result of the interaction of both genetic and environmental factors. Among the genes in humans that have been suggested as candidate susceptibility genes in RA are those encoding the T cell receptor for antigen (TCR). A high prevalence and early age of onset of RA has previously been reported in Alaskan Tlingit Indians. In this study, the frequency of seven different restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) in the TCR alpha and beta gene complexes were measured in a population of Alaskan Tlingit Indians. No statistically significant differences were noted when the frequencies of these RFLPs were compared between Tlingits with RA and healthy controls (p > 0.05). These results do not support the hypothesis of an RA-susceptibility allele in the vicinity of these TCR alpha or beta genes. Since TCR RFLPs have not been extensively studied in native American populations, TCR polymorphism frequencies in the Tlingits were also compared to the frequencies observed in a second control group of healthy Caucasians. Statistically significant differences were observed in these comparisons implying a different distribution of individuals in these populations with different TCR repertoires.