Indian Ancestry - and
How to Enroll or register In A federally recognized tribe
Books of Native American Census Rolls
What is the purpose of tribal enrollment?
requirements preserve the unique character and traditions of each
tribe. The tribes establish membership criteria based on shared
What are tribal membership requirements?
criteria are set forth in tribal constitutions, articles of
incorporation or ordinances. The criterion varies from tribe to
tribe, so uniform membership requirements do not exist.
Two common requirements for membership are lineal decendency from
someone named on the tribe's base roll or relationship to a tribal
member who descended from someone named on the base roll. (A "base
roll" is the original list of members as designated in a tribal
constitution or other document specifying enrollment criteria.)
Other conditions such as tribal blood quantum, tribal residency, or
continued contact with the tribe are common.
How do I apply for
enrollment in a tribe?
|After you have
genealogical research, documented your ancestry, and
determined the tribe with which your ancestor was affiliated, you
are ready to contact the tribe directly to obtain the criteria for
Rarely is the BIA involved in enrollment and membership. Each tribe
determines whether an individual is eligible for membership. Each
tribe maintains it's own enrollment records and records about past
members. To obtain information about your eligibility for
membership, you must contact the tribe.
How do I Locate the
Tribe I may have Indian Ancestry from?
The Tribal Leaders Directory
"pdf/download Free" that is published by the Bureau of Indian Affairs
lists all 562 federally recognized American Indian Tribes and Alaska
Natives. It also lists all the Regions, Agencies and Offices within
Enrollment Procedures and Recourse
Tribal governments use a variety of methods
to determine their membership, some with blood quantum requirements,
others without. The decision of whether or not to use a blood
quantum requirement is wholly at the discretion of the tribe as a
part of their tribal sovereignty. The procedures tribes set up to
regulate tribal membership, including the appeals process, are used
to ensure the credibility of the enrollment process and to prevent
fraudulent claims of tribal membership. In addition, an accurate
blood quantum is extremely important for many legal reasons and
correcting it ensures a greater level of services from both tribal
and federal programs designed for tribal members and Native
Americans as a whole.
For those tribes that do have a
minimum blood quantum requirement,
proper calculation of an individual's Indian blood may determine if
that person is eligible for enrollment within the tribe. For those
tribes that do not maintain a minimum blood quantum requirement,
degree of Indian blood is still used for statistical purposes and
may sometimes be a determining factor in the level of services an
individual receives from the tribe.
Some federal programs designed for the benefit of Native Americans
still require a minimum blood quantum in order to be considered for
services. If an individual's blood quantum is incorrect, they may be
denied program services to which they are legally entitled.
The personal and family satisfaction that results from having a
corrected blood quantum should be motivation enough to obtain an
accurate degree of Indian blood. While being a member of a Native
American tribe is much more than a piece of paper with a blood
degree on it, having a correct blood degree promotes pride in being
The most obvious place to begin when establishing or correcting
one's blood quantum would be with the tribe itself. Typically, the
tribe has copies of the base rolls from which the membership of the
tribe is drawn. These rolls usually include the person's name
(English and Indian, if known), their age, where they were from, and
their blood quantum. If you suspect that your blood quantum is
incorrect, the tribal enrollment office should be your first stop.
Their job is to calculate and correct blood quantum for the tribe.
The tribal enrollment office can often find the blood quantum
mistake and correct it immediately. If the mistake is a simple
miscalculation of blood degree, i.e., you should be 3/4 instead of
½, then the enrollment officer should have no problem correcting the
degree. Proper documentation is necessary to get an incorrect blood
quantum changed. State certified birth and death certificates are
required by tribal enrollment offices. This establishes an
applicant's lineage to the enrolled ancestor. It also establishes
paternity for the applicant.
There are instances when the tribal enrollment office cannot change
a blood quantum. If there is a question of blood degree on the base
roll, then the Bureau of Indian Affairs must be consulted. The
Bureau maintains control over the base rolls for tribes and is
considered the final authority when it comes to corrections to said
rolls. With proper documentation and Bureau approval, the blood
quantum shown on the base roll can be changed and the enrollees
descendants' blood quantum can be changed also. This is usually the
only time the Bureau of Indian Affairs is involved in the process.
Other documentation that an applicant can use when attempting to
correct their blood quantum are enrollment packets for the
applicant's ancestor(s). With many tribes, the enrolling officers
interviewed enrollees to establish their ancestry as well as their
blood quantum. Many times the enrollment packets will include
information as to the blood degree of the enrollee not found on
their roll card. For instance, if a child was illegitimate, the
enrollment packets may include the name of the father, whereas, the
roll card would not. This information could then be used to
establish paternity on the child and increase his/her blood quantum.
Probate proceedings can also be used to establish lineage and blood
quantum for an applicant. Probate proceedings include the deceased's
name, roll number, and may include blood quantum. Legal pleadings
may also include the names of other family members, including
children, brothers, and sisters. These names can then be
cross-referenced with the deceased's family history to ensure
accuracy. If there is a question of correct blood quantum, probate
proceedings may lend credibility to the applicant's claim to the
increased blood quantum.
Finally, adoption proceedings can be used to identify blood quantum.
Under the Indian Child Welfare Act, an adopted Indian child's
natural parents' names and many times, blood quantum, are included
in the adoption decree. An individual who is attempting to enroll
with a tribe and was adopted can legally ask to have his/her
adoption records unsealed to view the material. This information may
then be used to establish a correct blood quantum calculation with
the tribal enrollment office.
-- Gregg L. Lewis
University of Oklahoma
Native American Studies Student
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