Feb 23 2013
If your ancestors have been in the United States for a few hundred years, you have probably heard rumors of at least one Native American in your pedigree. You may even have a desire to join a tribe such as the Cherokee Nation. If this is the case, the rules are very clear and you will probably find that proving it is a lot more difficult than simply identifying the ancestor and sending in your application for membership.
First I would like to note that, even with proof, you may still not qualify. My significant other’s maternal pedigree is riddled with Native Americans all the way back to the Eastern Band of Cherokees and the Lumbee Tribe. Among them are notable surnames with Cherokee roots such as Southern, Barnes, Bullard, King, West, Timms, and Tsali.
Many of his ancestors were relocated to Indian Territory at the time of the Trail of Tears. Others hid out in the North Carolina Mountains. Most eventually left the territory and intermarried. There is an abundance of proof; legal documents and written testimonies. His third great grandmother spoke and read in her native language. Several of his ancestors applied for membership to the Eastern Band of Cherokees and The Five Civilized Tribes. Their names were listed on the Dawes Rolls and Guion Miller Rolls, but not the final versions. Reading the contents of the Dawes packets can be heartbreaking, especially when they are denied membership to their own tribe.
The rules for eligibility are very clear for each organization. For example, to be accepted in the Cherokee Nation you must have a blood relative that lived in Indian Territory between the years 1898-1906; current day Oklahoma. They would have remained continuously in the territory from the time of removal and would have appeared on the Indian Census Rolls.
Its not surprising that many Cherokee natives were reluctant to sign any government papers or register. After years of broken treaties and removal from their homes, they simply did not show up. Do not be discouraged if you find that your ancestor did not make the final cut. Remind yourself that your genealogy research is to find your roots, not how a government agency defines them.