The Cherokee Nation is a Native American tribe based in Oklahoma with more than 300,000 enrolled members. Being recognized as part of the Cherokee tribe can be a strong connection to ancestors. If students are able to prove, with documentation, that they are at least 1/4 American Indian, there are scholarship and grant opportunities available.
To be recognized as Cherokee, the Nation requires that you find one of your ancestors on the Dawes Rolls. The Dawes Rolls--officially named The Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory--is a list of members of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole tribes, recorded from 1898 to 1906. The Cherokee Nation requires the roll number listed under your family member's name to recognize your family's Cherokee heritage. While genetic ancestry testing is becoming more advanced, it is still not widely accepted as a method of confirming Cherokee heritage.
Finding Your Cherokee Heritage
Collect information about members of your family who would have been living between 1898 and 1906. If you are Cherokee, one of these ancestors will be listed in the Dawes Rolls.
Record the given first and last name of the ancestor (maiden, if your ancestor was a married woman). A birth certificate is usually the most desirable form of identification for your ancestor, but information from a family bible or other records may also be acceptable.
Visit the Research Center of the Oklahoma Historical Society's website. Under "Databases and Indexes," click on the "Dawes Final Rolls" link.
Enter the first and last name of your ancestor in the search engine. Under "Tribe," scroll down to "Cherokee," then select "Enter." The search also asks for a roll number, which is the number your ancestor received when he or she registered in the Dawes Rolls. If you found this number in your family records, you would already know you are Cherokee because you would have your ancestor's Cherokee enrollment number.
Find your ancestor's name in the search results. You will also find your ancestor's age at the time of enrollment, gender and your ancestor's fraction of Cherokee blood, from Full to 1/32. Your ancestor's enrollment number will be in the last column.
Record your ancestor's information, including the enrollment number. This is the number the Cherokee Nation government would need to verify your Cherokee ancestry. Congratulations, you've unearthed your Cherokee roots!
On its website, The Cherokee Nation provides a citizenship form you can fill out with your ancestors' information and roll numbers and mail to the Cherokee Nation Registration Department in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. If the Cherokee Nation approves your application, you can be considered a Cherokee tribe member. This time for this process to be completed varies.
- Dick Luria/Photodisc/Getty Images