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Tribal recognition takes several steps

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 22, 2002

CHEROKEE, N.C. -- The best way to begin tracing your American Indian heritage is by using the same methods you do to compile a non-Indian ancestry. Start with yourself and work back one generation at a time. Once you reach the point where you think your lineage and an Indian tribe converged, find out which tribes lived in that geographical area and learn everything you can about them. Most large public and university libraries carry books on Indian history and migration patterns, particularly near a reservation.

Although I focused on the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Tribe in these columns, most tribes have similar enrollment policies, genealogical resources and research impediments. The National Archives & Records Administration Web site ( maintains a respectable collection of tribal rolls and related materials such as an alphabetical listing of all Indian veterans who served prior to 1870.

NARA's Southwest region office in Fort Worth has one of the nation's largest collections of Indian genealogy. Other Web sites to examine are the Missouri Historical Society at and Cyndislist at Ever wondered what it takes to become recognized as a member of an Indian tribe? Based on existing federal law (Title 25 Code of Federal Regulations 75-1-75, 1994), Chapter 49 Enrollment Ordinance #594, the members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians shall consist of the following:

All persons who names appear on the roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, prepared and approved pursuant to the Act of June 4, 1924 and the Act of March 4, 1931.

All direct lineal descendants of persons identified in 49-2 who were living on Aug. 14, 1963; who possess at least 1/32 degree of Eastern Cherokee blood, who applied for membership prior to Aug. 14, 1963, and have themselves or parents who have maintained and dwelt in a home sometime during the period from June 4, 1924 through Aug. 14, 1963 on lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in the counties of Swain, Jackson, Graham, Cherokee and Haywood in North Carolina;

All direct lineal descendants of persons identified in 49-2-a who were living on Oct. 15, 1995, who possess at least 1/16th degree of Eastern Cherokee Indian blood, and apply for membership on or before Feb. 15, 1996;

All direct descendants of persons identified in 49-2-(a) who are born on or after Oct. 15, 1995, and who possess at least 1/16th degree of Eastern Cherokee Indian blood and apply for enrollment within three years of the date of birth.

If you think you're eligible, write to the Cherokee Tribal Enrollment Office, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, P.O. Box 455, Cherokee, NC 28719. If you call them at (828) 497-7031, you can quickly find out if your ancestor appears on the 1924 Baker Roll. There's no charge. Detailed research costs $100 and takes about a year. (No personal checks). Tribal records go back to 1935.

For information about the Cherokee Tribe of Oklahoma, write to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Muskogee Area Office, Federal Building, Muskogee, OK, 74401. The Qualla Public Library in downtown Cherokee, has a few resources. Microfilm rolls, in which families are listed much like they are on federal census rolls, primarily contain applicants from the Guion-Miller roll. Copies of Cherokee Roots, Volume I and II are available.

A Mormon Family History Center is open 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Wednesdays and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Thursdays. The Historical Society does not have reference materials and cannot assist with personal research.

Note: There is a third federally recognized Cherokee tribe: the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee. For information, visit their Web site at Note that the UKB is uppercase.

-- Information from the Bureau of Indian Affairs was used in this column.

Donna Murray Allen welcomes your questions about genealogy and will respond to those of general interest in future columns. Sorry, she can't take phone calls, but you can write to her c/o Floridian, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail her at You can read her column online at Type "Donna Murray Allen" in the search box.

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