First Nations/Native American Tribal Membership Requirements for U. S. Tribes

This is a common question in Facebook genealogy or DNA groups. The typical response is usually wrong. In the past, the U. S. federal government required a blood quantum level to become a member of a tribe. However, the tribes mostly convinced the government the tribes should be the ones that decided the requirements for tribal membership.  Under the current tribal guidelines, there are usually three (3) ways a tribe allows a member to join. Note: DNA is not one of the ways. In fact, DNA testing is only allowed in cases where a question was raised if one or both parents aren’t the parents of the person seeking tribal membership. In those cases, a DNA test can be used to prove or disprove the individual’s parents as being tribal members. In addition, tribes may have other requirements besides the ones listed below.

In no particular order, one way is blood quantum. Blood quantum level is determined by the tribe. While some tribes allow a minimum of 1/32 blood quantum, it varies as at least one tribe requires 5/8 blood quantum: . This is based on your Native American blood quantum being 1/2 of your parents so 1/32 would mean your parents were at least 1/16, their parents were 1/8, their parents were 1/4, their parents were 1/2, and at least one of their parents was full-blooded First Nationer/Native American. It’s important to note that most tribes only count blood quantum levels if your ancestors were members of their tribe. You could have somebody with 1/8 blood quantum, but the blood quantum was split among two (2) or more tribes in such a way that the person doesn’t meet the blood quantum requirement for any of the tribes.

Another way is you have to trace your ancestor to a tribal census. This includes the handful of tribes that are on the Dawes Rolls, Baker Roll, or similar government census.

The last way some tribes use is the combination of the above two (2) methods: i.e., both blood quantum and being on a tribal census. In at least one case, the Eastern Band of Cherokees, not only do you need to meet the blood quantum level (1/16 for this tribe), but the blood quantum level you have to meet is based on your ancestor’s blood quantum level on the 1924 Baker Roll:

These are frequently asked questions of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Many people want to know about becoming a tribal member based on having a relative of Cherokee descent. Enrollment in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is governed by Cherokee Code, Chapter 49, Enrollment, and restricts enrollment to the following:

  1. A direct lineal ancestor must appear on the 1924 Baker Roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
  2. You must possess at least 1/16 degree of Eastern Cherokee blood. Please note: Blood quantum is calculated from your ancestor listed on the 1924 Baker Roll. No DNA/blood testing is performed or acceptable for this calculation. To have this Roll searched, please contact the Enrollment Office to receive a form to complete and submit.

I found this out when somebody in a Facebook group wanted to know if their distant great-grandfather being a chief qualified them for membership in this tribe. Using the above information, the ancestor on the 1924 Baker Roll would need to be a lot higher than 1/16 blood quantum, modified by however many generations between the ancestor and the person asking so that their blood quantum was at least 1/16. Given we are talking about a distant enough great grandfather, something like seven (7) or more generations ago with plenty of non-First Nation marriages to thin out the blood quantum, it’s very unlikely the ancestor on the Baker Roll is anywhere near a blood quantum level that would allow the descendant to be 1/16.

About ICT Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's
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