While very few American frontiersmen married a “Cherokee Princess”, thousands wed Native Americans before 1906. If you’ve heard stories about a Cherokee ancestor somewhere in your family tree and want to claim your Native American heritage by becoming a member of the tribe, you’ll have to prove it to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Cherokee Nation. Only after your application has been accepted will you become eligible to receive the benefits of tribal membership.
To be eligible for Tribal Membership with the Cherokee Nation, you must apply and be able to present a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. You must apply for a CDIB and provide acceptable legal documents that connect you to an ancestor whose name appears with a roll number and blood degree from the Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes-Cherokee Nation (commonly called the Dawes Commission Rolls or Final Rolls). These rolls were compiled between 1899 and 1906. Quantum of Indian blood must be computed from the nearest paternal and/or maternal direct ancestor(s) of Indian blood listed on the Final Rolls. Many descendants of Cherokee Indians cannot be certified, nor can they qualify for tribal membership in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, because their ancestors were not enrolled during the final enrollment. The requirements at that time were:
- Apply between 1899 and 1906.
- Appear on previous tribal rolls compiled in 1880 or 1896.
- Have a permanent residence within the Cherokee Nation (now the 14 northeastern counties of Oklahoma).
If ancestors had separated from the Tribe and settled in states such as Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas, they lost citizenship within the Cherokee Nation. Only enrolled members of the Cherokee Nation named on the Final Rolls and/or their direct descendants can be granted a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood and/or Tribal Membership. CDIB’s are issued only through the natural parents. In cases of adoption, quantum of Indian blood must be proven through the biological parents to the enrolled ancestor. A copy of the Final Decree of Adoption must accompany the application for CDIB, as well as the State Certified, full image/photocopy of the birth record.
It will take a professional genealogist at Lineages, Inc. a minimum of 10 to 15 hours to determine if one of your ancestors was a member of the Cherokee Tribe. For more information see http://www.lineages.com/native-american-research/.