You may think you have Native American heritage, but there is a lot more to it than simply the stories about a distant ancestor that have been passed down through your family members.
The tribal enrollment process is a long journey.
And when it comes to researching your genealogy, you’ll likely stumble upon a lot of unfamiliar terms that may cause some confusion your research process.
Thankfully, you have access to more information than ever before through the resources available online. Here, we will discuss the key differences between DNA test results, a CDIB card, and Tribal Enrollment.
The Purpose of DNA Test Results in Your Family History Search
DNA test results are not enough on their own to qualify someone as belonging to a specific tribe. However, a DNA test is a good place to start to see if attempting to enroll in a tribe is worthwhile for you.
Each different American Indian tribe has their own set of specific eligibility requirements for tribal enrollment. You cannot simply state that you are descendent of such-and-such, who was a member of that tribe. You will often have to prove that your ancestor was indeed a member of that tribe, and you will also have to prove your relation to that ancestor.
This is where a DNA test comes in: it can help you establish a firm connection to someone in the tribe. There are several DNA testing services available online, such as 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and Ancestry.com. But remember, DNA testing and confirming your relation to a tribe member is not enough to claim your belonging in a tribe, as you will have to meet the tribe’s other specific eligibility requirements.
Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB)
CDIB cards are issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). It lists an individual’s blood degree by tribe and contains information about their birth date and the last four digits of their social security number. CDIB cards are signed by a BIA representative.
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However, the BIA does not oversee the tribal enrollment process for any individual tribe. Therefore, obtaining a CDIB card does not necessarily mean that a person is an established member of a federally recognized tribe. Since tribes take care of their own membership process, you will have to go through their specific tribal enrollment in order to become a recognized member.
The Tribal Enrollment Process
As we’ve discussed previously, each tribe has their own specific criteria when it comes to tribal membership eligibility. Tribes are sovereign nations, so there is no involvement from the federal government or any U.S. government agency when it comes to tribal enrollment. A tribe will typically list their enrollment criteria in their constitution, ordinances, or articles of incorporation.
While tribal membership criteria vary between tribes, there are a few common requirements in most. One is proof that you descend from someone listed one the tribe’s base roll, which is an original list of members. Another is tribal blood quantum.
These two things can be proven through DNA testing and obtaining a CDIB card, but they are not enough to grant enrollment in a particular tribe. Other enrollment criteria can include continued contact with the tribe in question or a tribal residency.
Essentially, you cannot apply to enroll as a member of a tribe until after you have completed your genealogical research. Then, you will have to speak directly with the tribe you want to enroll with about their specific process. There are 562 total American Indian and Alaska Native tribes that are federally recognized, and you can find them in the BIA Tribal Leaders Directory.