Cherokee Membership and Cherokee Enrollment

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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 perso 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.

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

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