Published on August 18, 2014 by Amy
If you have Native American heritage, you may be able to obtain formal recognition from a tribe. Tribes have strict enrollment requirements, because they each want to preserve and protect the traditions and character that have historically made that tribe unique. The precise requirements for enrollment vary from one tribe to the next, but tribes typically consider criteria such as customs and traditions, language and tribal blood.
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1. Locate the tribe from which you may have ancestry. Consult the Tribal Leaders Directory, a publication of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which lists over 500 tribes that are federally recognized. Visit or call a regional office or agency of the BIA to obtain the contact information for the tribe, since this information is not readily available. Also request to view the “base roll” of the tribe, which is a registry of the tribe’s original members.
2.Contact the tribe by which you desire to be recognized to obtain precise criteria for membership. Request to view founding documents such as the tribal constitution, articles of incorporation or ordinances. These documents will set forth the specific membership requirements of the tribe.
3. Prove lineal descendancy from a person that is already recognized by the tribe. For instance, locate an ancestor on the “base roll” of the tribe. Prove descent from this ancestor by producing evidence or documentation of your genealogical research, such as birth certificates or other public records.
4. Prove your descendancy by blood quantum, if so required by the tribe. Some tribes require proof of lineage by blood quantum, while others do not. Blood quantum is the percentage of tribal heritage in your blood. For instance, you may be three-quarters or one-eighth Native American. Blood quantum is calculated by the tribe, using the blood quantum of the ancestor to whom you prove descendancy. For instance, you may prove ancestry from a tribal member, but if this member only had one-half blood quantum, which is the requirement for membership, you may be denied membership.
5. Prove that you have a cultural connection to the tribe. For instance, show that you are proficient in the written language of the original tribe. Demonstrate ability to read historical tribal texts. Show the tribe that you have been taught the customs and traditions of the tribe by ancestors.