What Is the Tribal Enrollment Process?

What Is the Tribal Enrollment Process?

Posted By Paul G April 12th, 2017 Blog

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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11 thoughts on “What Is the Tribal Enrollment Process?

  1. Dolores Maynard says:

    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.

  2. Bobbieann carpenter says:

    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

    • 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.

  3. Gloryann Dean says:

    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

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