Posted By Jamie K Oxendine November 18th, 2011 Featured

To any Native American that travels a great deal and attends and participants in a large number of cultural events, it would appear that everybody has an “Indian Princess” in the family. Usually, this person is a “Cherokee Indian Princess” … or at least it would seem so with the many stories one gets from the average and general public. Even more disturbing is this story is also widely told and used by Native Americans that claim they have a “Cherokee Indian Princess” as an ancestor. But not to be outdone and to show that other Native American Nations are not discriminated against, the story does not always have to be Cherokee…in many instances and especially since 2000 all Native American Nations/Tribes are included in stories that somebody has an “Indian Princess” of some Native American Nation/Tribe in their family.

But that aside, this really is a genealogy paper and thus with that beginning paragraph, it is one of Cherokee Genealogy.  This article is to help both anyone that feels they may be of Cherokee origins as well as help the Cherokee by hoping that many will read this and understand the viewpoints of Cherokee Genealogy per enrolled citizenship/membership. This, of course, does not mean that one cannot be Cherokee or of Cherokee heritage. While doing research for this paper and other projects in correspondence with the Cherokee Tribes, they all admit that there are many people of Cherokee Ancestry and Cherokee Blood that are not enrolled for many various reasons.

If one is looking at the official acknowledgment of being Cherokee here is the information they may need as put forward by the Cherokee Tribes:


As of 2011, there are 3 Federally recognized Cherokee Groups:

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in Tahlequah, OK.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, NC.

The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Tahlequah, OK.


Tribal membership is a status of citizenship in a sovereign nation, AND –

In the United States only the Federal Government has the authority to recognize a sovereign foreign nation with foreign indicating a government other than the United States of America, AND –

For Federal, State and Common Law in all cases of American Indian citizenship, Tribal Law always governs the terms of citizenship/membership, AND –

The degree of “American Indian Blood” is irrelevant to Tribal citizenship/membership if a law has been established creating the different basis for enrollment as a citizen/member as not all Nations use a degree of “American Indian Blood” for citizenship/membership.


Requirements for citizenship/membership among the Cherokee greatly varies in both procedures and details. There are actual rules here and they can vary but basically, it involves being able to legally establish a Direct Lineal Descent from one that was enrolled in the official final rolls of citizens/members and a calculation of Certification of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB).

Direct Lineal Descent

This must be established by some type of legal documentation. This may include items such as state or court-ordered birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates and or other legal documentation that justifies a direct lineal descent. One may also use a “judicial determination of heirs” which legally establishes the nearest enrolled relative.

Certification of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB)

This document is the process of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs. The minimum CDIB is established by each Federally Recognized Tribal Government and varies greatly even among Tribes that are of the same origins.

There may be many other requirements established by each individual tribal government.


The current requirements for Cherokee citizenship/membership are as follows:

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

1. Direct Lineal Descent from a Dawes Roll citizen/member

2. Any degree of Cherokee Blood Quantum

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Cherokee Tribal Ordinance #284 of June 24, 1996, states –

1. Direct Lineal Descent from a citizen/member of the Revised Baker Roll and 1924 Baker Roll

2. 1/16 degree of Cherokee Blood Quantum

The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians

1. 1/4 degree of what is known as the “Old Settler” Keetoowah Cherokee Blood.


The above seems simple enough but one must realize that there were rules and or regulations long before these especially since Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma uses a final Dawes Roll of 1906, The Eastern Band of Cherokee uses a 1924 Baker Roll and the Keetoowah Band uses a Base Roll of 1949.

Anyone of Cherokee descent has heard the phrases Dawes, Baker and even Old Settler when referring to being Cherokee. They are rolls and or census based on Acts established to count and keep track of the Cherokee starting in the early 19th Century.


This is the final roll of the Eastern Cherokee as prepared by U.S. Agent Fred A. Baker by an act of The 68th U.S. Congress on June 4, 1924. Before this roll, the Act had required that all land, money, and property of the Eastern Cherokee be transferred to the United States for final disposition. The goal, of course, was total termination of the Eastern Cherokee as a government, people, and political entity. This total termination failed however but the Eastern Cherokee continued to use the 1924 Baker Roll as its base roll and Baker Revised Roll as its final roll. Descendants of those persons of the original Baker Roll are enrolled on the Baker Revised Roll and they must also meet the other citizenship/membership requirements of the Eastern Cherokee.


The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma are enrolled as follows:

Citizens/Members by blood

Citizens/Members by marriage

Citizens/Members enrolled by an Act of Congress in 1914

Delaware Indians adopted by the Cherokee


Minor citizens/members by blood

Minor freedmen

New born citizens/members by blood

New born freedmen

The original enrollment closed September 1, 1902 with additional children added until March 4, 1906.


The requirements for enrollment in the Cherokee after the Dawes Act include:

One must appear on previous tribal rolls of 1880 or 1896.

One must have applied between 1899-1906.

 One must have a permanent residence within the Cherokee Nation in the 14 Northeast counties of Oklahoma.

 Any ancestors that separated from the Cherokee Nation and settled in the states of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas now lost their citizenship within the Cherokee Nation.

Only enrolled members of the Cherokee Nation named on the Final Rolls and their descendants are issued Certificates of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) and Tribal Citizenship/Membership.

Certificates of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) are only issued via the natural parents. In any cases of adoption, the quantum of American Indian Blood must be proven through the natural biological parents back to the originally enrolled ancestor. For all adoption claims a copy of the Final Degree of Adoption along with a State Certified Birth Certificate/Record must accompany the application for Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB).

All other Cherokee citizenship/membership rules were basically extinguished by the actions taken around and after the final rolls.


The “Old Settlers” was those Cherokee that was removed freely (not a forced march) to what was known as Indian Territory under the treaties of 1817 and 1819. One must remember that Indian Territory then was what is now Arkansas. Settlements for these Cherokee were between the Arkansas River and White River.

What became known as the “Old Settlers” were identified by two census rolls: The Emigration Roll of 1817 and the Old Settler Roll of 1851. The 1817 Emigration Roll became a list of all Cherokee that freely chose to move to Indian Arkansas Territory. The 1851 Old Settler Roll included all from the 1817 Emigration Roll that was still alive in 1851 and living in what was now Indian Territory of Oklahoma. The main body of the Cherokee Nation had now been in this new Indian Territory of Oklahoma since 1839 by forced removal. Remember Arkansas became a state in 1836 but Oklahoma stayed Indian Territory almost until it was admitted to the Union in 1907.

Only the Cherokee on the 1851 census that was also enrolled under the Dawes Commission retained citizenship/membership. So any Cherokee on both the 1817 Emigration Roll and The 1851 Old Settler roll became officially known as “Old Settlers” because they had resided in the older Indian Territory of Arkansas between 1817 and 1840 at them moved to the “new” Oklahoma Indian Territory after Arkansas became a state and within a few years of the main body of the Cherokee being established in Oklahoma after forced removal from the South East.

As one can see, dates and territorial/state lines became a very important aspect of who was and who was not Cherokee.


The Cherokee Tribes admit that there are many people that are “of Cherokee Ancestry and Blood” that can trace and document their ancestry and maybe even blood quantum to earlier generations who were at one time Cherokee citizens/members. Due to a great deal of internal strife and civil war among the Cherokee in the mid-19th Century, these ancestors lost their citizenship/membership as a result of many various choices and decisions made by both them, the Tribal Governments, State Governments and most importantly and most sadly the Federal Government. For the most part, this “loss” came about due to something as simple as where one chose to live. In many other cases, it came about due to agreements and disagreements on treaties or other documents.

Because of both Federal and Tribal Law, large numbers of people who were of Cherokee heritage lost their citizenship/membership at the time of the respective final rolls. There are many reasons for this and it has been a much heated debated for over 200 years. Opinions vary greatly in this argument as there has never been any type of official census on those that lost their Cherokee citizenship/membership due to the guidelines and requirements of said citizenship/membership.

Of course, ask anyone that truly feels and believes they are Native American and or Cherokee and they will resoundingly tell you that all of the above is not the Native way of saying one is or one is not Native American and thus Cherokee. This makes logical sense since even the Cherokee admit that the system of citizenship/membership did not even exist until the governments (both Tribal and Federal had to establish such guidelines). But as anyone knows and as Nakeysha A. Kemp (Enrollment Clerk of The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) states if we do not have such measures then anyone and everyone could claim Cherokee enrollment and the Tribe would have millions of members.

Finally, who is and who is not Cherokee sometimes comes down to whether one signed or did not sign certain Tribal, State and Federal papers and where one lived during certain dates. There is no legal documentation process for non-Cherokee to be citizens/members. Not one of the 3 Federally Recognized Cherokee Groups offers any kind of recognition process for descendants of any individuals that surrendered their citizenship/membership. This includes any that may have “disappeared” from any Tribal, State, and Federal records, rolls, census or other official papers.


Various correspondences via phone, e-mail, and U.S. Mail from March 2011 to November 2011 and updated information from November 2014 to February 2015 with:

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in Tahlequah, OK.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, NC.

The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Tahlequah, OK.

Interviews with:

Nakeysha A. Kemp, Enrollment Clerk, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee, NC

Chenaust Whiteman, Special Assistant, Cherokee Nation Tribal Registration, Tahlequah, OK

Home » Native American Articles » Native American Genealogy » …MY GRANDMOTHER WAS A CHEROKEE INDIAN PRINCESS…

About Jamie K Oxendine

Jamie K. Oxendine, of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, is the Native American Liaison and Education Consultant for Ohio University in Athens. Ohio. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Toledo teaching “Indians of North America” and at Lourdes University teaching “Native American Culture” for the Lifelong Learning Center. A frequent speaker on Native American topics, he serves as the director of the Black Swamp InterTribal Foundation in Ohio. As a recording artist, he was three times been nominated for a NAMMY (Native American Music Award).

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  1. If your great great, great, great, great grandpa was crazy horse and also had the creator of Crazy Horse statue who had 8 family members in your blood line who were Indian and you had 89 percent Indian American native blood would you be considered mostly American and protected Indian? A friend was telling me this I think it is really cool and beautiful to say the least! Our Indians were the some of the most intelligent land protects, workers and we still need them and we should have learned form them instead of fighting them and taken their lives/land away from them!!!

  2. Adam Hovey says:

    My great great grandfather was born in Indian Territory and is apparently on the Dawes roll. For better or for worse, I am not currently enrolled in any tribe. (My mother is a mixed blood, my father had Sauk and Lakota ancestry). That said, I think the Cherokee Nation needs to chill out with the “Fraudulent” Indian task force. I agree there are groups that really are fraudulent, but not everyone who claims to be Cherokee is lying about it. I think they should at least give state recognized (Cherokee) tribes the benefit of the doubt in historical Cherokee homelands.

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