Tribal Enrollment

Tribes have the right to determine their own membership. These criteria for enrollment vary from tribe to tribe. In the Midwest, the criteria are based on descendancy, that is, descent from an individual on a particular roll, as well as, in some cases, blood quantum and/or residency of the applicant or his/her parents. Most tribes also have constitutional provisions for adoption of members. Individuals who are enrolled in a particular tribe have rights that include hunting, fishing, and gathering on tribal land (or in some cases off-reservation), as well as per capita payments if the tribe distributes income from court cases or businesses. Other benefits include preferential hiring for tribal jobs, entitlement to certain services, the right to vote and run for tribal office, use of tribal land, and preferential selection for tribal housing.

A tribal roll is based on a particular “base roll,” that varies from tribe to tribe. In the mid-19th century, community membership depended on residence and participation, but when treaties were made, “annuity rolls” were prepared by the government, listing the tribal members who would receive goods and payments. At first these written rolls had names but no “blood quantums.”


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In Michigan, the Ottawa and the lower Michigan Potawatomi tribes, having been denied the right to organize an Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) government in the 1930s, use late 19th and early 20th century rolls as base rolls. The federal government used these rolls to distribute annuity goods and payments based on treaties. Tribal members today must be able to trace descent from an enrollee on the base roll. The Hannahville Potawatomi in upper Michigan did organize an IRA government, and their base roll was made in 1936. The Ojibwas in lower and upper Michigan have base rolls prepared at the time they accepted IRA governments (but based on older rolls), except the Lac Vieux Desert tribe prepared its roll after being federally recognized in 1988.


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Video Transcript

In Wisconsin, the Ojibwa tribes and the Oneida take as their base rolls those prepared at the time they accepted IRA governments as well as earlier allotment rolls, and the Forest Potawatomi also use a roll prepared from a census taken in conjunction with their acceptance of an IRA government. The Ho-Chunk and Stockbridge-Munsee tribes use base rolls derived from early 20th century annuity or allotment rolls. The Menominee base roll was prepared at the time of the Menominee Restoration, but based on older rolls.

Listen to Josh Gerzetich discuss the Oneida’s blood quantum requirement. Help

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Video Transcript

The Minnesota Ojibwa use base rolls based on 1941 annuity rolls prepared for treaty payments. The Dakotas use rolls from the time of the IRA, or older rolls. Also, the Prairie Island and Lower Sioux Dakota communities allow Dakotas enrolled elsewhere to transfer their enrollment status to Prairie Island or Lower Sioux.

Marriages between people from different tribes are quite common. The children of these marriages may find it difficult to meet enrollment requirements of any tribe.

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