What Is the Tribal Enrollment Process?

Posted By Paul G April 12th, 2017 Last Updated on: March 2nd, 2022

When it comes to researching your Native American ancestry, you may come across a lot of information about enrolling in a tribe. The tribal enrollment process, while varied from tribe to tribe, is typically meant to preserve a tribe’s unique culture and traditions.

Related Info – What tribe am I from?

Enrolling in a tribe is a great way to learn more about your lineage. It is also an important way to help you prove Indian ancestry. Here are the most important things you need to know about the tribal enrollment process.

DNA Testing

A lot of people believe, due to oral histories told down through their family lines, that they have Native American heritage. However, a simple claim that you are related to an American Indian is not enough to prove that you are eligible for tribal enrollment.

The first step, therefore, is to undergo DNA testing. There are several companies you can do this through, including 23andMe and Ancestry.com. While DNA testing in itself is not enough to prove your tribal eligibility, it can help firmly establish a connection to a tribe. It will give you an idea of whether or not it is worth it for you to seek legal tribal enrollment in the first place.

Read our articleWhat you need to know about DNA testing!

Eligibility Requirements

Each individual tribe, since it is a sovereign nation, establishes its own set of enrollment criteria; you will not be able to find a uniform enrollment process to prove Native American ancestry. The criteria can typically be found in a tribe’s ordinances, articles of incorporation, or constitution.

Two of the most common requirements are deemed from the tribe’s base roll, which is an original list of members from a document that specifies tribal enrollment criteria, such as the tribal constitution. You will often need to prove that you descend from someone listed on the base roll, or prove a relationship with someone else descended from a base roll member. There are other conditions in place for tribal enrollment, too, such as continued contact with your tribe, a tribal residency, or tribal blood quantum.

How to Apply for Tribal Enrollment 

Applying for tribal enrollment will come after you’ve completed the rest of your genealogical research. You’ll want to make sure you are applying to the correct tribe, which is more possible after you’ve obtained enough information about your ancestor’s tribal affiliation.

Then, you will need to reach out directly to the tribe in question, and they will be able to fill you in on their enrollment criteria. Though there are large Native American organizations that exist, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, they are rarely involved in the process of tribal enrollment. Check out our tribal directory to find contacts for the tribe you need. There are 562 total.

As you go through the process of attempting to procure tribal enrollment, it is a good idea to contact the tribe early on. They will be able to tell you what you need to do at every step in the process.

Why Is Tribal Enrollment So Restrictive?

As we stated earlier, Native American tribes are sovereign nations and therefore are able to determine their own standards for the legal recognition of tribe members. This is because those seeking tribal enrollment may be doing so for the benefits that come with it, such as education or health services access. Strict tribal enrollment rules are in place to allow these tribes to make sure there are not individuals taking advantage of the system.


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Donald Geldernick

Well, thank you. I always felt in my bones that I had some Native blood. But my niece did a detailed Ancestry.com study and looked. Said nothing Native. If I had it, she would. But my dad grew up 2 miles south of the Oneida Tribe near West DePere WI and my maternal grandfather often would talk to Powawatami Natives walking thru his land as the crow flies. And my Dutch great uncle was a lumberjack in Rhinelander WI and a backwoodsman near Lake Tomahawk. So I have resolved that, like so many Wisconsin people, we have blended much like the Metes/French Natives in what is known as the Middle Path. I see it so much in the Fox River Valley when I return home to Wisconsin. We are all more alike than different, it is true. Thank you.

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My name is Daniel moberly and I was needing help determining if I’m native American because my grandparents and father were full blooded Cherokee

Mark Aguilar

I had my DNA tested a few years ago and it came back roughly 50/50 Southern European and Native American which is encouraging and pretty accurate if the research I’ve accumulated in conjunction with my elder Uncle, who himself has gone to Spain, is factual. My Uncle started his search many years ago and has been to both Spain and Mexico to conclude that our origins here date to circa 1493-94. On my paternal side I have followed my Aunts initial research done some 30+ years ago which documents my ancestral heritage to a Native California maiden who married a Spanish soldier and settled in Los Angeles in 1781. There is a story behind both sides of my Native geneolgical composition of both sides which favor both Apache and a Southern California Tribe, of which there were several. My question to you, after what I’ve related to you, is which tribe should I relate to? I was born in Northern California, lived here all my life and recently have made contact with a distant cousin from Southern California who has the same documentation I have and agrees that we are, in fact, descendants from the same Native ancestor.


From my understanding, speaking with friends that are duel tribal, you can only enroll in one tribe at a time. It is not that you can not enroll in one or the other just that you can only choose to be enrolled in one at a time. However with that said you can be enrolled in one and then change your enrollment to the other tribe if you would like for reasons of your own, for example if you are say required to live on the reservation of one in order to be an enrolled member and have the benefits of the tribe but you have to make a move due to work or marriage or simply just because, you would loose those benifits but it may also allow you to then enroll into your other tribe once you become ineligible to your current but only if you make their standing rules of enrollment. You would still have your old enrollment card from your previous tribe though not valid for use in ways it will still have your proof of previous enrollment and you will remain in the tribes system and always have that option to return if you were to say “move back” to the reservation or within a certain amount of milage requirements. Again, no matter your situation you can only be enrolled and collect benifits from one tribe at one time. You do possibly have a choice in which you choose to enroll in depending on their own set of enrollment rules/policies and each tribe has their own way of doing things although some things are the same others are quite the opposite. So, my advice to you would be to check with both tribes on their rules of enrollment and you will have a much better direction to choose from or perhaps it will choose for you?
I hope this helped you in some way or possibly in the least gave you or someone reading a little insight on this matter of duel tribal registration on at least one tribes rule and possibly others or all, I don’t know. My mom, and auntie believe it is the same way in our Ojibwe tribe here in MN.

Frances Valdez Madrizd

I have done my Dna and came back Native american and Spaniard, I have done My Genealogy and have found some information on My Great Great Grandmother she was a Navajo, she was captured and baptized and sold as a servant in New Mexico. I dont know who her parents were but she took on the last name of the people who bought her i have found records stating is is Navajo, but I am stuck what do i do next?

Dolores Maynard

I am in southern California and would like to know where to go get blood test done to confirm Iroquoi Indian. I am 39%. But need to make sure of that tribe.


I live in Bakersfield ca, I’ve done 23 and me confirming my family native American not sure which tribes or how to go further.
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Eva Martinez

Hello, I did the ancestry dna and it came at 94% native american. I would like to know about my bloodline. I dont know much about my grand parents as they were orphans. Please guide me I would like to know about my ancestors.

Bobbieann carpenter

Hello I got my dna results back from ancestry I’m 46% Native American. Now I don’t know where to go from here to find what tribe my bloodline is from and if I can register in the tribe

Eva Martinez

Hello, I did the ancestry dna and it came at 94% native american. I would like to know about my bloodline. I dont know much about my grand parents as they were orphans. Please guide me I would like to know about my ancestors.


If you did your DNA download it to Gedmatch. You may find more people you connect to and that will help you as well. It may can find the line to your great grands and find their line and help build your tree.

start with your grandparents. look up all their siblings .look at great grandparents…aunts uncles.each’s story might yield a clue. for me it(my native side research) was easy,finding names on the rolls,in census and such. ancestry…find a grave .com ,etc.but why mine was so easy,i was a descendant of historical people and much of the detective work had already been done for me and was made public by others. didn’t have to pay a dime to find a possible connection all the way to a guy named donnacona circa 1485. i have no intention of actually joining the nation at this point.i’d like to attend and learn at events up there,but i’m not seeking to gain anything from simply being part cherokee.nowadays it is cool to be an indian,but in days of my grandmother it wasn’t.i’ve tried to focus on who they were and what they endured than myself. i’m very proud of whom i came from though .it is nice to know what i was pretty sure of anyways. i do know and understand more about myself from my search ,and recommend anyone who is searching to focus on the struggles of your ancestors ,whoever they prove to be .i know about my ancestors struggles now and many of their names.my duty to them as well as myself….to know their story. for a person adopted about at birth ,it was important to know and to end the mystery of where and who i came from.well to any searching…hope this helps.

Andrea Braden

Paul if I Get My DNA test will that be proof enough for a tribe to enroll in there tribe. Also what Indians are from Pennsylvania? That’s where I was born and I was told my great grandmother was Indian but not sure what tribe she was from. Sincerely Andrea Braden

Rhonda Harris

Hi 👋

How about pictures and letters.

I showed my friend a picture and he said my family looks strange.

I think they are from an island north of Canada.

Gloryann Dean

The story of my heritage from my mother..my grandfathers grandfather came from Ireland named Aaron Roach married a cherokee woman and that’s all I know

Erin Akins

I’ve got many roadblocks in being able to figure out my native American heritage. I know I am tiwa pueblo tribe but my grandfather won’t ever talk about our heritage and give me names of my relatives. What can I do to find my heritage and possibly living relatives. All I know of my great grandmother was that she was 100 native American from what my mother has told me.

Twana Clark

I have found doing my reserch my grandmother is Gracie Sexton,her father John Sexton,his father Moses Sexton, his mother is Catherine Gallion,her Mother is Nancy Gallion (Cherokee )her mother is April Gallion( Cherokee )called her cherokee girl) which was belived she dided on the trail of tears also they were from North Carolina.

Deborah Poole

I have been told by several family members that Quanah Parker is my second great grandfather on my father’s side. My problem is trying to figure out which of his many wives is my second great grandmother. I have found base roll memberships as well as property that was allotted to other members on my mother’s side. I plan to have a DNA test done once I get the money but my question is do I apply to that Blackfoot Shoshone tribe or tracing the original Comanche tribe that has been merged with the Cherokee tribe during the trail of tears?

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