Indian Ancestry

Tribal enrollment criteria are defined by each tribe. Tribes establish membership guidelines based on shared customs, traditions, and language. Typically, tribes require that the enrollment applicant demonstrate that they are a direct descendant of a person (living or deceased) who is enrolled or recognized as a member of the tribe. This is referred to as “lineal decendency.” Other conditions such as blood quantum, tribal residency, or continued contact with the tribe are also commonly required.

Tracing Indian Ancestry

First, you should do genealogical research, document your ancestry, and determine the tribe in which your ancestor is affiliated. The BIA has published a list of all federally recognized American Indian Tribes and Alaska Natives. For the complete list, click here. The BIA is rarely involved with the individualized enrollment process since each tribe determines their own enrollment eligibility and maintains its own enrollment records. Therefore, you must contact the tribe directly for information about your eligibility for membership.

You may find this guide helpful in your research. It is called “Tracing Indian Ancestry” and can be found at the U.S. Department of the Interior’s page.

How can Native American Adoptees Unseal Their Birth Records in California?

If you were adopted, you may not know who your biological parents were or whether they were members of a tribe. CILS has created the informational guide below to help you through the process if you were adopted and trying to determine if you are eligible for membership with a tribe.

The Birth Records Self-Help Kit below explains what you need to do if you were adopted, think that you are Native American, and you live in California and/or were born in California and you want to enroll in your tribe.

Much of the information contained in the guide above pertains solely to individuals tracing their ancestry to California tribal groups. This information is not meant as a guide for those tracing their ancestry from tribes outside of California. While the information is specific to California, the general scope of the information and your particular family’s history may not reflect the experience of the majority of California Native families.

If you need additional information or help tracing your ancestry, please don’t hesitate to call California Indian Legal Services. Please note however that CILS does not assist individuals with tribal enrollment which is up to tribes themselves.