Cherokee Membership and Cherokee Enrollment

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Cherokee Membership Requirements and Cherokee Enrollment Qualifications

Many people want to know about becoming a Cherokee Tribal Member based on a relative being Cherokee or of Cherokee descent. Enrollment in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is governed by tribal ordinance #284 dated June 24, 1996, and restricts enrollment to the following: direct lineal ancestor must appear on the 1924 Baker Roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. (Note: The Baker Roll is the base roll of the Eastern Cherokee and contains the name, birthdate, Eastern Cherokee Blood quantum, and roll number of the base enrollees.)

The question pops up all the time, "I have a relative who is Cherokee, may I register as a Tribal Member?" Or, "I'm of Cherokee descent; does that make me eligible to be a member of the Tribe?"

Enrollment in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is governed by Cherokee Code, Chapter 49, Enrollment, and the Code restricts enrollment. If you have a direct lineal ancestor listed on the 1924 Baker Roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, then you must meet one of these two conditions:

  1. All direct lineal descendants of the ancestor listed on the 1924 Baker Roll must have been living on August 14, 1963, possess at least 1/32 degree of Eastern Cherokee blood, have applied for membership prior to August 14, 1963, and have themselves or have parents who have maintained and lived in a home at sometime during the period from June 4, 1924, through August 14, 1963, on lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Swain, Jackson, Graham, Cherokee or Haywood counties in North Carolina, or
  2. All direct lineal descendants of the ancestor on the 1924 Baker Roll must possess at least 1/16 degree of Eastern Cherokee blood if applying for membership today (after August 14, 1963).
Blood Quantum (i.e. your degree of Cherokee blood) is calculated from your ancestor listed on the 1924 Baker Roll, and DNA/blood testing is unacceptable for this calculation. DNA testing has not advanced to the point of determining tribal affiliation, and therefore The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians accepts DNA testing only in regard to the parentage of an applicant. 
Additionally, any person who applies for membership in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cannot be a member of any other federally recognized tribe.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a C.D.I.B. Card? 
A C.D.I.B card, as it is commonly called, is a Certificate Degree of Indian Blood card that is issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It certifies what your degree of Indian blood is and what tribe you are affiliated with. A number of tribes still allow C.D.I.B cards to be issued to people who cannot become enrolled members of their tribe as a result of an insufficient blood quantum or any other reason. The Bureau of Indian Affairs in Cherokee must receive a document from the Enrollment Office stating that you are a member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians in order to issue you a C.D.I.B card. The Enrollment Office cannot issue any statement if you cannot meet our enrollment requirements.

Can I take a D.N.A test to prove my Cherokee heritage? 
Unfortunately D.N.A testing has not advanced to the point that they can tell that a person has lineage to a specific group of Native Americans. Testing can tell you if you have Native American blood, but can’t narrow it down as to what tribe you would belong to. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians only accepts D.N.A testing in regards to the parentage of a child.

Can I be a member of two tribes?
The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians prohibits dual enrollment. If a member of another federally recognized tribe wants to become a member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, they must relinquish their membership in the other tribe. If that person has ever accepted any benefits from a tribe other than the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, they are prohibited from becoming a member of the Eastern Band.

What is the difference in the Eastern and Western Cherokee?
The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians are descendants of Cherokees who did not go on the Trail of Tears. The Western Band of the Cherokee are descendants of Cherokees who went on the trail. The two tribes operate as two separate entities and have separate enrollment policies.

What is the Indian Child Welfare Act?
The Indian Child Welfare Act, also known as ICWA, was passed in 1978. It states that Indian children who are put up for adoption are under the protection of the tribal court of their specific tribe. This allows the child to know its Indian heritage and participate in any benefits accruing to it as a member of a tribe. This act was a result of the wholesale adoption of Indian children and the loss of their tribal rights. Also, adoptions frequently meant tribes lost touch with their adopted citizens and many adopted children searched to no avail when they sought their family roots. Preference is given to Indian adoptive parents, but non-Indian adoptive parents are allowed.

How long does the Enrollment process take? 
The length of the Enrollment process varies by applicant. It is not something that can be done in one day and in most cases can take between four to six weeks.

What documentation is necessary for me to enroll?
Once you have established that you do have a direct lineal ancestor on the 1924 Baker Roll, you must submit a completed application with your certified birth certificate and certified birth and/or death certificates linking you to your ancestor on the 1924 Baker Roll. Example: If your Baker Roll Ancestor was your Maternal Grandmother, then you would need to Submit your Certified Birth Certificate that has your mothers name on it and your mothers certified birth certificate that has her mothers name on it. 
If the Enrollment committee has any questions about your application they can request any additional information they deem necessary to prove your lineage.

Blood Quantum: must possess at least 1/16th degree of Eastern Cherokee blood. All criteria must be met in order to be eligible with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Enrollment is CLOSED to all people who cannot meet the above requirements.

(Related reading below.)

Credit: (The official source for all your Eastern Band of Cherokee information.)

HIGHLY Recommended Reading: Cherokee Proud, Second Edition, by Tony Mack McClure. Description: Absolutely the "Bible" of Cherokee Genealogy. New, 336 pages, 2nd Edition. If the information in this remarkable new book doesn't lead a person to proof of their Cherokee roots, nothing can! “It is an A-to-Z on organizing and locating the requirements / qualifications for membership.” Continued below...

Are you Cherokee? Are you the individual that has always been told that you are a Cherokee, but have no facts or records to prove it? To claim Cherokee membership means that you must prove it – you must have the facts, so toss the doubt away, get the facts, and claim what is rightfully your heritage by blood quantum. Now, are you ready to prove that you are a Cherokee? It’s not difficult if you take the time to locate the facts. Included are proven resources for tracing your family genealogy, the family tree, roots, bloodline, and for researching your ancestors to prove that you meet the blood requirements (qualifications) for Cherokee membership and tribal enrollment. Those that qualify as “American Indians are American Indians” and are entitled to the rights and benefits of the tribe! Also includes a proven “how to dos” written by the foremost expert in Cherokee history, genealogy and heritage. Cherokee membership is not like joining a gym or paying dues, it’s your blood, so claim it. Are you remotely interested in knowing that you are a “Cherokee Indian” or are you the individual that enjoys genealogy? Do you want to locate and preserve your Native American ancestry? Finding information about ancestors for genealogy and heritage is also a lot of fun. Moreover, you are preserving your own family history and heritage with your relatives and loved ones for generations and generations… Take a look at exactly what is required to locate and organize and present your information to prove that you meet the qualifications as a member of the Cherokee tribe. Cherokee Proud, by Tony McClure, is referred to as the "Bible for Cherokee Genealogy." Cherokee Proud has also been rated a SOLID FIVE STARS by every person that has read and rated it. To see if you meet the 'Cherokee qualification and requirement for membership', then look no further -- purchase Cherokee Proud. Read the reviews and see what people and organizations are saying about it.


"Cherokee Proud is the very best book I have ever seen on tracing Cherokee genealogy." -- RICHARD PANGBURN, acclaimed author of Indian Blood, Vol. I & II found in most libraries

"McClure unabashedly loosens his journalistic standards for portions of this book which reach him too emotionally. Understood. Fascinating and enlightening."

BACK COVER: Among the people of this country are individuals in whose blood runs the proud heritage of a noble and resilient people whose ways and talents rank with the finest civilizations the world has known. They are the " Tsalagi ". . . the Cherokee. This book will help you learn if you are one of them. -- BOOK READER

"The contents of Cherokee Proud are exceptional - valuable information that can be used by so many readers and researchers who have Native American (Cherokee) ancestry." -- DON SHADBURN, Famous Georgia historian and noted author of Unhallowed Intrusion and Cherokee Planters of Georgia

"This Cherokee guide is the best yet!" -- LAWTON CONSTITUTION

About the Author: Well known and acclaimed Cherokee author Dr. Tony Mack McClure, a native of Tennessee, is a certified member of the Native American Journalists Association, Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, and Committeeman for the Tennessee Chapter of the National Trail of Tears Association. His work has appeared in numerous magazines, over 250 newspapers, on all major television networks and many cable systems.

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Recommended Reading: Cherokee Connections, by Myra Vanderpool Gormley. Description: Cherokee Connections is an introduction to genealogical sources pertaining to the Cherokee nation, and it is designed specifically for researchers who are trying to prove their heritage for tribal membership as well as for those who are simply interested in investigating family legends about Cherokee ancestry. Continued below…

All-important sources of genealogical value are explained with respect to the reasons why the various records were generated and where they can be accessed today. This includes such well known records as the Dawes Commission records, the Dawes Final Rolls, and the Guion Miller Rolls, to mention only a few.


Recommended Viewing: The Trail of Tears: Cherokee Legacy (2006), Starring: James Earl Jones and Wes Studi; Director: Chip Richie, Steven R. Heape. Description: The Trail Of Tears: Cherokee Legacy is an engaging two hour documentary exploring one of America's darkest periods in which President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830 consequently transported Native Americans of the Cherokee Nation to the bleak and unsupportive Oklahoma Territory in the year 1838. Deftly presented by the talents of Wes Studi ("Last of the Mohicans" and "Dances with Wolves"), James Earl Jones, and James Garner, The Trail Of Tears: Cherokee Legacy also includes narrations of famed celebrities Crystal Gayle, Johnt Buttrum, Governor Douglas Wilder, and Steven R. Heape. Continued below...

Includes numerous Cherokee Nation members which add authenticity to the production… A welcome DVD addition to personal, school, and community library Native American history collections. The Trail Of Tears: Cherokee Legacy is strongly recommended for its informative and tactful presentation of such a tragic and controversial historical occurrence in 19th century American history.


Recommended Reading: The Cherokee Nation: A History. Description: Conley's book, "The Cherokee Nation: A History" is an eminently readable, concise but thoughtful account of the Cherokee people from prehistoric times to the present day. The book is formatted in such a way as to make it an ideal text for high school and college classes. At the end of each chapter is a source list and suggestions for further reading. Also at the end of each chapter is an unusual but helpful feature- a glossary of key terms. The book contains interesting maps, photographs and drawings, along with a list of chiefs for the various factions of the Cherokee tribe and nation. Continued below...

In addition to being easily understood, a principal strength of the book is that the author questions some traditional beliefs and sources about the Cherokee past without appearing to be a revisionist or an individual with an agenda in his writing. One such example is when Conley tells the story of Alexander Cuming, an Englishman who took seven Cherokee men with him to England in 1730. One of the Cherokee, Oukanekah, is recorded as having said to the King of England: "We look upon the Great King George as the Sun, and as our Father, and upon ourselves as his children. For though we are red, and you are white our hands and hearts are joined together..." Conley wonders if Oukanekah actually said those words and points out that the only version we have of this story is the English version. There is nothing to indicate if Oukanekah spoke in English or Cherokee, or if his words were recorded at the time they were spoken or were written down later. Conley also points out that in Cherokee culture, the Sun was considered female, so it is curious that King George would be looked upon as the Sun. The "redness" of Native American skin was a European perception. The Cherokee would have described themselves as brown. But Conley does not overly dwell on these things. He continues to tell the story using the sources available. The skill of Conley in communicating his ideas never diminishes. This book is highly recommended as a good place to start the study of Cherokee history. It serves as excellent reference material and belongs in the library of anyone serious about the study of Native Americans.


Recommended Reading: Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation. Description: One of the many ironies of U.S. government policy toward Indians in the early 1800s is that it persisted in removing to the West those who had most successfully adapted to European values. As whites encroached on Cherokee land, many Native leaders responded by educating their children, learning English, and developing plantations. Such a leader was Ridge, who had fought with Andrew Jackson against the British. Continued below...

As he and other Cherokee leaders grappled with the issue of moving, the land-hungry Georgia legislators, with the aid of Jackson, succeeded in ousting the Cherokee from their land, forcing them to make the arduous journey West on the infamous "Trail of Tears." ...A treasured addition for the individual remotely interested in American Indian history as well as general American history.

Recommended Reading: A Cherokee Encyclopedia (Hardcover). Description: A Cherokee Encyclopedia is a quick reference guide for many of the people, places, and things connected to the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees, as well as for the other officially recognized Cherokee groups, the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokees. Continued below...

From A Cherokee Encyclopedia: "Crowe, Amanda: Amanda Crowe was born in 1928 in the Qualla Cherokee community in North Carolina. She was drawing and carving at the age of 4 and selling her work at age 8. She received her MFA from the Chicago Arts Institute in 1952 and then studied in Mexico at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel under a John Quincy Adams fellowship. She had been away from home for 12 years when the Cherokee Historical Association invited her back to teach art and woodcarving at the Cherokee High School. . . ."

"Fields, Richard: Richard Fields was Chief of the Texas Cherokees from 1821 until his death in 1827. Assisted by Bowl and others, he spent much time in Mexico City, first with the Spanish government and later with the government of Mexico, trying to acquire a clear title to their land. They also had to contend with rumors started by white Texans regarding their intended alliances with Comanches, Tawakonis, and other Indian tribes to attack San Antonio. . . ."

About the Author: Robert J. Conley is the author of over seventy books. The Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers named him Wordcrafter of the Year for 1997. He has won numerous Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America and was presented with the Cherokee Medal of Honor in 2000. An enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees, Conley lives with his wife, Evelyn, in Norman, Oklahoma.


Recommended Reading: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Genealogy, 2nd Edition. Description: A very helpful genealogy reference! It is extremely helpful if you're in the "I want to trace my roots, ancestors, family tree and heritage. How do I begin, where do I start, and how do I go about doing it?" situation. It contains numerous helpful common sense tips that will prevent future headaches and a lot of well thought out suggestions and tips too. One helpful hint: "Talk with your extended family and interview them for genealogy information, be patient with them, and let them tell their stories....document everything." There are plenty of well-mannered tips like these that elevate this book to excellence. Continued below...

A lot of the confusing aspects of genealogical research such as document requests and providing proof and evidence are well covered. Customer's Review: I bought this book when I hadn't yet done any research at all about my family history. A year and a half later, I have a file drawer full of information, and I have needed no other reference. I also bought a book called "The Source", which is supposed to be the 'genealogist's bible', and it has been a giant paperweight in comparison. Idiot's genealogy is full of the kind of practical information that can carry you through years of research. Happy hunting!!!

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