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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?

Tribal enrollment requirements preserve the unique character and traditions of each tribe. The tribes establish membership criteria based on shared customs, traditions, language and tribal blood.

What are tribal membership requirements?

Tribal enrollment 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 completed your 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 membership.

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 the BIA.

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 Native American.

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

Rolls Of Various Tribes

 

 
   

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