Can A Non-Native American Join A Tribe? The Tribal Enrollment Process

Can a Non-native American Join a TribeIn the United States, tribal membership is highly valued. It is because it is a formal way of recognizing one’s heritage. To be affiliated with a tribe will give you a sense of belonging to a particular community, identity, and acceptance.

It gives you the chance to access some critical tribal and government services. The services include health care, housing, education, and many more. Such assistance is crucial to the survival of many families in the United States.

Because of the several benefits tied to tribal membership and different enrollment requirements, many non-native Americans are eager to know if.

Can a non-native American join a tribe?

No, a non-native American cannot become a member of any federally recognized tribe. It is because the tribes use blood quantum to determine one’s eligibility and lineage. The United States has 573 tribal governments that are federally recognized.

However, each tribe has its own unique rules for enrollment, highlighted in its constitution, ordinance, and articles of incorporation.

Tribal Governance

Currently, there are 573 recognized tribal nations in the United States. The tribal nations have a formal country-to-nation relationship with the central United States government.

They are commonly referred to as tribes, nations, communities, pueblos, and native villages. Legally they are known as the federally recognized tribes. Alaska harbors 229 tribes, while the remaining are located in the other 35 states.

The tribal nations are essential parts of the United States government. The most exciting part is that they are recognized as sovereign governments by the constitution, like California and Canada.

The tribal nations gave away much of the land that made the United States. in return, they were allowed to continue with self-governance on their remaining grounds.

Purpose Of Tribal Enrollment

The tribes expect their members to preserve the traditions of the tribe. The tribe rules and membership criteria are drawn from the shared language, customs, cultures, and tribal blood.

Requirements For Tribal Membership

The tribal requirements do vary from tribe to tribe and do function like governments. The conditions have been documented in their constitutions, ordinance, and articles.

There are no uniform standard requirements for membership. However, two common requirements apply across all the tribes.

Lineal dependant, it states that you should be born from someone who was named on the tribe’s ball roll. You should be related to a tribal member with blood relations with some named on the base roll.

The base roll is the list that contains original members. Those have been enrolled according to the tribal constitutions or other documents highlighting the enrollment process.

Your first challenge will be to prove your direct relationship with the person listed in the base roll.

The tribal blood quantum is another factor.  It would be best if you had some percentage of genetic makeup related to the native tribe.

Most native tribes require you to have ¼ blood quantum. This means that you should be ¼ of Native American.

However, some tribes, like the Eastern band of the Cherokees, need you to be 1/16 or more to join. Other requirements are considered, such as tribal residency or the continued contact with the tribe.

How To Apply For Tribal Enrollment

After completing the research on your tribe and have identified and documented your ancestry, you can directly get in touch with your tribe to determine the criteria for membership.

Each tribe has its way of selecting or determining the members. They all have their enrollment records about past people. You are required to contact your tribe to obtain more information about your eligibility

How To Locate The Tribe You May Have Indian Ancestry

This has been made easier by the tribal leader’s directory. It contains contact information for tribes that are federally recognized. It also has additional information about every BIA region and agency.

The BIA agencies do offer specific services depending on the tribe. You can also get the contact information of the various Indian affairs leadership.

Benefits Of Tribal Enrollment

It would help if you met specific criteria to get the benefits. You should live within the tribal lands since it is the area that is approved for the services.

The benefits are also need-based; it’s mostly given to those who do not have the financial muscles to access them. Some of the benefits are:

1. House benefits

Most funds of the tribal governments go to housing. It focuses on building and improving the existing houses. However, housing continues to be a significant challenge because of the ever-rising population.

The native governments are trying to reduce housing issues by developing low-cost properties. They offer various financial benefits such as guaranteed home loans, improved access to the house by native veterans, etc.

It gives direct grants to individuals who wish to improve their living conditions and have an idea of bettering their communities.

2. Educational benefits

The citizens of the native tribes are also United States citizens. Therefore they have the right to access free public education.

It has been noted that the tribal education in many districts in native regions lags.  Only about 13% of the tribal students get a university degree, compared to 37% of non-tribal areas.

However, the tribal states have built and are managing 33 universities. This gives the parents and kids hope for a better future. There are several scholars for the Native American students who demonstrate outstanding performances.

The American Indian education fund does offer support according to the need and merit of the students. It gives up to $450,000 per year.

The association of American Indian Affairs gives several scholarships every year to almost 10 percent of those who apply.  Native students can access many other scholarships.


Obtaining tribe membership is the dream of every native and some non-native Americans. Joining can prove to be so challenging since the tribe membership lacks universal rules and requirements.

The tribes’ differences can be found at the state, tribal and federal levels. For example, a tribe can be recognized by the state but not at the national level.  This makes the process of enrollment and requirements to be entirely different from one tribe to another.