How to Use Indian Rolls
Letís take the Final Dawes rolls, for
example, which are the most important rolls for those ancestors who
removed to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) during the 1800's, as well as the
Seminole in Florida. The Dawes rolls lists those members of the Five
Civilized Tribes who participated in what is called "The Trail of Tears".
This is a census of those people who were awarded land allotments
subsequent to the General Allotment Act of 1887, passed by Congress in an
effort to do away with communally-held tribal lands and initiate
individual land ownership among the Indians in Oklahoma. The mistake that
most researchers make is to go immediately to one of the rolls without
doing the proper research first. It is common for a researcher to find the
name they are looking for, and assume that they have found their long-lost
ancestor and the search is over. There are, however, tens of thousands of
allottees listed on the Dawes alone, ensuring that you can find just about
any name you are looking for. (There are 32 John Smithís listed on Dawes.)
By the time you have searched the many extant rolls available for all five
southeastern tribes, you can see the confusion that can abound.
Letís say you have found your ancestorís
name listed on Dawes. The next step is to check the age listed. Obviously
you need to know the approximate year of your ancestorís birth. Most ages
on Dawes are calculated as of 1902. There is some variance, particularly
where Freedmen are listed, but that is a good general reference point. By
the way, the Freedmen listed on Dawes are the former slaves who had been
brought to Indian Territory by their Native American owners (yes, some
Indians were slaveholders) and were freed after the Civil War. Many
Freedmen chose to stay with the tribe, some had intermarried. If your
ancestorsí listing on the Dawes Rolls contains the designation "Freedman",
then they were of African descent, not American Indian. The Freedmen were
included in the land allotments of the Dawes Act to keep them from losing
the homes they had established within Indian Territory. The benefits they
received were less than those who were of Native American blood. Some of
the Five Civilized Tribes still maintain at least one seat on the Tribal
Council for a Freedman representative. For
Records of Freedman go here.
By looking at the other names listed on the
family census card for this ancestor youíve found, one can usually
establish if this is your family member or not. Do you recognize those
other names as being part of your ancestorís family? Be sure youíre
researching a roll that is appropriate for the time period and geographic
area of your ancestor. Obviously, if you find a name listed on Dawes, done
in Oklahoma 1898-1914, but you are sure your family member was living in
North Carolina at this time, this person would not be your ancestor.
Okay...youíve found your ancestor, and hopefully some of his/her family
members listed on a roll. Make a note of the Tribe, Enrollment Number and
the Census Card Number. These will be necessary for obtaining further
records. Numbers were assigned within different categories on Dawes,
according to which nation the enrollee belonged to, whether Indian,
Freedman or Intermarried Whites, and whether the enrollee was considered a
Newborn, Minor or Adult. It is possible to find several different
enrollees in separate categories with the same enrollment numbers, so be
sure you make notes on all these. Now, what is your purpose for wanting
further information on this person? We will address first the possibility
that you just want further genealogical information and are not interested
in enrolling in the tribe yourself.
For additional family data itís a good idea
to order copies of the original enrollment application made by your
ancestor at the time of the allotments. The applicants had to list
pertinent family data including names of parents and other relatives to
prove their blood connection to the tribe. There may also be other
documents contained within the enrollment packet for your ancestor that
will provide valuable information. These enrollment packets are housed at
the National Archives Southwest Branch, P. O. Box 6216, Ft. Worth, Texas
firstname.lastname@example.org) and copies can be ordered from them. There
is usually a $10.00 lookup fee charged, plus a small amount per page if
there is over a certain amount of pages. Itís best to check with them on
fees before ordering. Some researchers also report that these same
documents can be ordered from the Oklahoma Historical Society. BE
SURE to send applicantís full and complete name, tribe, census card number
and enrollment number when requesting records. As someone who does lookups
myself, there is nothing so frustrating as trying to locate records on
someone without sufficient identification data.
Now, letís suppose you have all your
ancestorís information and appropriate census card and enrollment numbers,
and you have decided to apply for enrollment to the tribe for yourself.
First you will need to apply for your Certificate of Degree of Indian
Blood (CDIB card) from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). A CDIB card
(commonly called the "white card") is an official document, which
certifies an individual possesses a specific degree of Indian blood of a
federally recognized Indian tribe. You are eligible to receive a CDIB card
if your lineal ancestor appears as an Indian by blood on a base roll of a
federally recognized Indian tribe. "Linear ancestor" means a direct
ancestor, such as a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent. Collateral
relatives such as aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, are not considered
lineal ancestors. By "base roll", we mean whatever specified allotment,
annuity census or other roll upon which membership in a federally
recognized Indian tribe is based, as designated by a federal statute, by
the Secretary of the Interior or by the tribeís written governing
document, such as a constitution, enrollment ordinance or resolution. For
the Five Civilized Tribes who removed to Indian Territory, that roll would
be the 1898-1914 Final Dawes Roll. For the Eastern Band of Cherokee in
North Carolina, that roll would be the 1924 Revised Baker Roll.
Gather all the documentation you can find.
These documents must be sent along with a completed application form
(downloadable from the BIA website) for CDIB card.
Certificate of Degree of Indian or Alaska Native Blood
-- Adobe Acrobat PDF File - File Size 1,322 Kbs.
You will need birth and death certificates (need to be
the official state certified records - not copies). Also look for
probate determinations, court orders, notarized affidavits, Federal or
tribal census records or Social Security records...anything that can help
prove your link to the person listed on the Final Dawes Roll. The
burden of proof as to whether you are eligible to receive a CDIB card lies
with you, and must meet the requirements set by the Bureau of Indian
Affairs. Applications for CDIB cards should be sent to your
office. Once you have received your CDIB card, you are ready to apply
for membership in your particular nation.
word to those who have looked in every place there is to look and still
cannot find that elusive ancestor actually documented as Native American
on paper. Try to
remember that the scholars tell us that only 20%-30% of the Native people
living at the time these rolls were done ever acknowledged the fact that
they were Indian (on paper) and registered with the government.
The rest simply chose to accept the inevitable and gradually blend
in with the dominant society.
Can we blame them given the social and legal restrictions placed on them
if they admitted to being Indian?
These were times where in most states they could not own property,
had to have a (white) legal guardian to do any sort of business, were not
permitted to attend school, could not vote, and other penalties placed on
them solely because of their race.
And we wonder why our grandparents were reluctant to discuss their
Native American heritage. I've heard stories about elders who were still afraid in the
1950's and 60's of being taken from their families and sent to Oklahoma.
It wasn't until the latter part of the 19th century with the case
of Ponca Chief Standing Bear
vs. The United States that the courts finally admitted that
Native American people were indeed
human beings! There are tens
of thousands of "lost birds" out there, those whose parents and
grandparents were separated from the flock.
One must be content with the "knowing of the heart" that we have
regarding our ancestors. I
once received a letter from a researcher who asked, "Since I can't find my
(ancestor) on any of the rolls, does that mean I don't count?". My answer to him was, "Only if you don't count to yourself."
Here are the addresses for the
Five Civilized Tribes
and websites where you may view specifics on applying for enrollment. Some
sites have downloadable application forms that you may print out and use,
plus some additional eligibility requirements such as blood quantum and
age. Good luck!
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