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---- Friday - December 15, 2017 - 10:02:29 PM - Navajo Nation Time ----

Tribal Membership

Tribal membership has different requirements for each American Indian tribe. To the Navajo Nation, they use the Blood-Quantum Sytem. One would be considered an enrolled member of the Navajo Tribe, if that person is at least 1/4 Navajo, and at least one of their parents is 1/2 Navajo and is an enrolled member of the Navajo Tribe. This proof is recognized by a C.I.B. (Certificate of Indian Blood), which can be considered your tribal enrollment paper, and your Birth Certificate. A C.I.B. would be obtained by applying with the Navajo Office of Vital Records in Window Rock, Arizona, or their agency office.

Persons with Navajo last names as "Yazzie" or "Benally", children born to German and Korean mothers who had relationships with Navajo G.I.s, Navajo "Wannabes", persons having close family ties near the Navajo Nation, & person having "visions" of who they are, have applied for membership in the Navajo Tribe.

For Navajos who were adopted and were not an enrolled member of the Navajo Tribe, they would have to produce a final order of adoption decree. Next an amended Birth Certificate, a social summary that was conducted when that Navajo was adopted and an original Birth Certificate. The usual procedure of retrieving an original Birth Certificate is for the adopted Navajo to petition the Navajo Court. Then the Judge would have a sealed Certificate released to the Vital Records office. The Vital Records office would then verify the biological parent's status with the Navajo Nation and then return the Certificate back to the Court without releasing any information, even to the adopted Navajo, in order that they abide with the Navajo Nation Privacy Act. The Vital Records office has to link each non-tribal member Navajo to an enrolled member. If there’s no information to go by, there’s nothing the Vital Records office can do. Some adopted parents are reluctant to give information on the adopted Navajo.

Its getting harder and harder to prove a person is Navajo if they were adopted by non-Navajos and lived off the reservation, even if their skin color or facial features are American Indian. Cultural Anthropologist Charlie Cambridge Jr. of Boulder, Colorado, a Navajo and Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Metropolitan College in Denver, has a theory on Navajo Genetics. The theory is that there is something unique about each Navajo person and blood could be the litmus test and not documentation to prove one's Navajo-ness. Navajo babies have been adopted or kidnapped and vanished into white America only to return as adults searching for their identity. Professor Charles Cambridge Jr. believes the Navajo Nation or the Navajo Area Indian Health Service should pursue a study on Navajo Genetics. If not, then the Navajo Nation should set up an egg and sperm bank. “All of a sudden they show up at someone's doorstep in Window Rock,” Cambridge said. “They know they’re 100% Navajo, but not who they are. “I know of two Navajo slaves who died in Colorado who lived into the 1950s,” he said. “They were held by Mexican families in Colorado. They had kids. It’s conceptual these kids and grandkids would have the rational to be enrolled in the Navajo Nation.”

If the Vital Records office gets a request from someone who is already enrolled with another tribe, the office will send that person a letter to inform them that they can't belong to two tribes. The Navajo Nation prohibits people from enrolling in two tribes. This eliminates a lot of dual enrollment.

The Ute Mountain Tribe in Towoac, Colorado, like the Navajo Nation, use the Blood-Quantum System and has similiar requirements for tribal enrollment. But unlike the Navajo Nation, they request 1/2 or more Ute Mountain blood to be eligible for tribal enrollment. As for dual enrollments, they don't have a specified law, per se, yet they are working on an ordinance. Federal law says dual members cannot accept payments from two tribes at the same time. In that aspect, it isn’t allowed. It’s sort of an unwritten law and the Ute Tribal Council frowns on it.

In general, most tribes in the Southwest use the Blood-Quantum System, and tribes in the East and Midwest use a Descent System. The Five Civilized Tribes go by the Descent System. These tribes permit any descendant of a tribal member to be enrolled regardless of the degree of true Indian blood (no matter how much White blood or Black blood they might have). Their descendants can go on for infinity and still be classified an enrolled member of a federally recognized American Indian tribe, even when they know that they are actually 1/00th or less American Indian. Certain descendants have claimed membership with the Sioux and Cherokee Nations, with as little as 1/1024th Indian Blood!

The Western Band of the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, have their tribal Registration Office only request that an applicant trace their bloodline to the Dawes Commission, which set the tribe's final Census roll between 1899-1906. This tribe does not ask for Blood-Quantum nor prohibit dual membership with another American Indian tribe. This tribe doesn't matter if the parents were enrolled or not. All the applicant has to be able to do is trace their lineage back to get a Certificate of Indian Blood (C.I.B.) card. As of 2000, the Western Cherokee band adds about 800 to 1,000 new members each month. The Eastern Cherokee band in North Carolina is separate from them and they conduct their own count and procedures. The Eastern band implemented an age deadline of when someone can apply for membership. The changes were made when they opened a Casino. The Western band has no Casino.

Still other American Indian tribes have a wide range of requirements to be a member. Some tribes require that people be born on the reservation or live on it for a certain length of time before they can apply for membership. Several pueblos in New Mexico allow children of mixed marriages to become members if the father is a Pueblo member. Other groups have ruled that only descendants of female members of the tribe can become members.

As it stands now, the Navajo tribe will eventually face the possibility that they will lose their full-bloods. In some tribes that use the Blood-Quantum System, there's been arguments that they should disband it. In tribes that use the Descent System, there’s been a growing conflict between the full-bloods and the 1/100s & 1/1000s bloods. It’s the 1/100s & 1/1000s bloods who are taking over the control of the tribe.

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Dated Created: 06/15/1997
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Updated: 10/09/2007
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