Indian Affairs and other federal agencies of the United States have special programs to serve the Native American population. The Indian Health Service, for instance, provides health care to American Natives through several reservation-based clinics and hospitals. Another agency, the Administration for Native Americans, administers programs to strengthen tribal governments and support development of reservation communities. American Indians also have specific border crossing rights when traveling between the U.S. and Canada. To apply for these benefits as American native, however, you need to obtain a Certificate of Degree of Indian or Alaska Native blood (CDIB) – card to prove your American native status.
Conduct Genealogical Research
Conduct genealogical research. To acquire native American status, you will need to trace your lineage up to your great-great grandparents on both sides and determine to which tribe you belong. You will need tribal roll records for all your ancestors. Genealogical research sites which may prove helpful are Native American Online, BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) and Access Genealogy.
Document Your Ancestry
Document your ancestry up to your great-great grandparents on both sides. If they had CDIB-cards, you will need their CDIB roll numbers. Obtain certified birth or death certificates for every person in your lineage. If you are adopted, you have to trace your American native blood through your natural parents and provide a state certified copy of your birth certificate and a copy of your adoption decree stating the names of your birth parents.
Determine Your Tribe
Determine which tribe your ancestors belonged to, and whether the tribe is a federally recognized native American tribe. The Bureau of Indian Affairs published a "Tribal Leaders Directory" which lists all the federally recognized American native tribes and their contact information. You must apply for membership in the tribe from which you are descended, a different tribe cannot issue CDIB cards.
Contact the Tribe
Contact the tribe and inquire about the criteria for membership. Tribal governments have different methods to determine membership. Some will require blood quantum tests to prove you belong to their specific tribe.
Apply for Tribe Membership
Apply for tribe membership and a CDIB card. Many tribes have the forms available for download online. Complete application forms specified by the tribe and submit all the documentation required to prove your native American status. The tribe's CDIB office will review the application and determine if you are eligible for membership.
- BIA: Guide to Tracing Your American Indian Ancestry
- Native American Online: Genealogy
- Acces Geneaology: How to Register or Get your CDIB Card
- Choctaw: Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood
- How to get your CDIB card and apply for tribal citizenship
- Indian Ancestry - And How To Enroll Or Register In A Federally Recognized Tribe
- Cherokee Tribal Citizenship FAQs