Enrollment in a Federally Recognized Tribe
To determine if you are eligible for tribal membership, contact your ancestral tribe. Individual tribes determine tribal membership. Additional resources links to trace Indian ancestry are provided below.
Ancestry - General statement on tracing your American Indian ancestry for purposes of enrolling in a federally recognized American Indian tribe. Establishing Your American Indian Ancestry
Genealogical Research - Provides general information as to where individuals can look in order to find the appropriate information they need to support their effort. Doing the Genealogical Research
Enrollment Process - - Provides a general description on what the Enrollment Process to a federally recognized tribe involves.Enrollment in a Federally Recognized Tribe
Why Enroll in a Federally Recognized Tribe?
What is the purpose of tribal enrollment? Tribal enrollment requirements preserve the unique character and traditions of each tribe. The tribes establish membership criteria based on shared customs, traditions, language and tribal blood.
What are tribal membership requirements? Tribal enrollment criteria are set forth in tribal constitutions, articles of incorporation or ordinances. The criterion varies from tribe to tribe, so uniform membership requirements do not exist.
Two common requirements for membership are lineal decendency from someone named on the tribe's base roll or relationship to a tribal member who descended from someone named on the base roll. (A "base roll" is the original list of members as designated in a tribal constitution or other document specifying enrollment criteria.) Other conditions such as tribal blood quantum, tribal residency, or continued contact with the tribe are common.
How do I apply for enrollment in a tribe? After you have completed your genealogical research, documented your ancestry, and determined the tribe with which your ancestor was affiliated, you are ready to contact the tribe directly to obtain the criteria for membership.
Rarely is the BIA involved in enrollment and membership. Each tribe determines whether an individual is eligible for membership. Each tribe maintains it's own enrollment records and records about past members. To obtain information about your eligibility for membership, you must contact the tribe.
How do I Locate the Tribe I may have Indian Ancestry from? The Tribal Leaders Directory that is published by the Bureau of Indian Affairs lists all 562 federally recognized American Indian Tribes and Alaska Natives. It also lists all the Regions, Agencies and Offices within the BIA.
Benefits & Services Provided to American Indians & Alaska Natives - There has long been a myth that Indians receive a monthly check from the U.S. Government because of their status as Indians. There is no basis for this belief other than misinformation and misconception of the status of American Indians. Some tribes, tribal members and lineal descendants received payments from the Federal Government resulting from claims settlements. But there are very few judgment funds per capita payments that remain today.
Some tribes distribute payments to enrolled members when revenues from the sale of tribal assets such as timber, hydroelectric power or oil and gas permit. Many tribes cannot make per capita payments because they do not have natural resources or other revenue from which they make a fund distribution.
Some Tribes have successful businesses, such as defense contracting, casino operations and information technology compainies. If profits warrant it, and tribal members approve it. Funds from those operations can be paid out as monthly, yearly or occasional stipends to tribal members.
There is a clear distinction between judgment funds and tribal funds. Judgment funds are appropriated by Congress after a claim that is filed by tribes or Indian descendant groups against the United States, is settled. Tribal funds are derived from tribal assets (refer to paragraph above). An individual does not have to be an enrolled member of a tribe to receive a final judgment fund payment. An individual must be an enrolled member of a tribe to be eligible to receive payments derived from tribal funds.
Services for American Indians
Indian Affairs, through its government-to-government relationship with federally recognized tribes, carries out the Federal Government's unique and continuing relationship with and responsibility to tribes and Indian people. Indian Affairs programs support and assist federally recognized tribes in the development of tribal governments, strong economies, and quality programs. The scope of Indian Affairs programs is extensive and includes a range of services comparable to the programs of state and local government, e.g., education, social services, law enforcement, courts, real estate services, agriculture and range management, and resource protection.
Many Federal agencies other than the Indian Affairs have special programs to serve the American Indian population, i.e., the Indian Health Service (IHS), an adjunct of the Public Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The IHS provides health care services through a network of reservation-based hospitals and clinics. Besides standard medical care, the agency has established programs that specialize in maternal and child health, mental health, substance abuse, home health care, nutrition, etc. The Administration for Native Americans, another agency within DHHS, administers programs aimed at strengthening tribal governments and supporting the social and economic development of reservation communities. Other agencies of the Federal Government that serves the special needs of Indian people include the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Agriculture, Education, Labor, Commerce and Energy.
All American Indians & Alaska Natives, whether they live on or off reservations, are eligible (like all other citizens who meet eligibility requirements) to receive services provided by the state such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Food Stamp Program and the Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).