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How to get your CDIB card and apply for tribal citizenship

How to get your CDIB card and apply for tribal citizenship. (KTUL)

It's not uncommon to hear people say their ancestors declined to sign the 1906 Dawes Rolls.

"When it was finalized in 1906 it was not a good thing to be Native American during those times, so a lot of people, if you wanted control of your own land, you didn't want to be half or more," said Anthony Beaver, an enrollment specialist at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Citizenship Office.

But today, the Dawes Rolls are the only way to prove tribal citizenship.

According to the United States Census Bureau, 9 percent of Oklahoma's population made up the "American Indian and Alaska Native alone" category at the time of the last census in July 2014.

Native Americans are the second largest minority group in the state behind Hispanics.

APPLICATION

Receiving a Certificate Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) card is the first step to gaining tribal citizenship.

"We always encourage applicants when their children are born to go ahead and apply for their CDIB cards and tribal citizenship," said Justin Godwin, associate tribal registrar for the Cherokee Nation.

To apply for a CDIB card, a person must first prove they are a direct descendant of someone on the 1906 Dawes Rolls.

The Oklahoma Historical Society's website has one helpful tool to let people research their ancestors.

Once a person finds a family member on the roll they must provide a copy of the birth and/or death certificates of everyone in the lineage.

"A lot of people don't understand why we need certain documents, especially when it comes to different birth and death certificates and why we need this and why we need that proving their lineage," said Beaver. "You have to look at it like we are a nation, this is a citizen and a citizenship process. You would look at it as you would going into becoming a citizen of the United States and what they would offer as well."

An applicant must then submit their own birth certificate, driver's license and social security card.

Once this is all complete the Bureau of Indian Affairs will determine if a person is eligible for the CDIB card.

Beaver said this process can take anywhere between six to eight weeks.

The Cherokee Nation is the only civilized tribe allowed to use their registrar to approve the request. This can speed up the process.

"That's how far we've come and we're very thankful the Cherokees are that highly respected," said Linda O'Leary, tribal registrar for the Cherokee Nation.

After applying for a CDIB Card a person can now apply for tribal citizenship.

The Five Civilized Tribes include the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole.

Allan Colbert, a research specialist and supervisor at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said a person must show their CDIB card, proof of lineage and fill out the proper paperwork to become a citizen. This process can take a day with the right documents.

"Basically everything is just done through the lineage," he said. "If the documentation is there and then they are linking to that ancestor on the 1906 Dawes roll then that allows them to be eligible for citizenship."

The Cherokee Nation has a similar process to become a citizen. After gaining citizenship their people can also apply for a photo ID card.

A citizen can use this card just like a regular driver's license.

The card also conveniently places their citizenship and CDIB enrollment in one place.

O'Leary said their chief has used his photo ID card to go through the CIA, Homeland Security and sit by President Barack Obama at the White House.

"That is a great big honor for us to be able to use that card to that degree to gain entrance to the White House and sit by the president," she said.

MYTHS

Although the process seems simple, people still believe some myths when it comes to getting their CDIB card or gaining citizenship.

Officials in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Citizenship Office said a person's ancestors must have lived in Oklahoma at the turn of the century to have signed the Dawes Rolls between 1898 and 1906, there is no fee for citizenship and the tribes will not accept DNA or blood tests to prove citizenship.

"The deal on the DNA test is it doesn't specifically state what tribe you are from," said Beaver. "It does state that you may have DNA American Indian blood within you but we can't accept that."

BENEFITS

Some benefits of enrolling in each tribe include higher education scholarships, health care and even housing.

O'Leary said the Cherokee Nation has a system when it comes to giving people benefits.

"A lot of the services are income based, it's a low income base but we serve the neediest of the needy, and plus we serve other people that are eligible through their Indian ancestry," she said.

People with questions about the application process should contact the tribes and do some research before attempting to enroll.

"In the end it's all worth it, you know that pride of knowing you are a citizen," said Beaver.

ENROLLING

Each of the tribes listed below has applications for the CDIB Card and for citizenship on their websites.

Tulsa's Channel 8 has listed what you need to know for each tribe's citizenship:

Cherokee

  • Must have CDIB card to become a citizen
  • Citizenship card never expires
  • Allows dual enrollment
  • No blood quantum

Chickasaw

  • Must have CDIB card to become a citizen
  • Citizenship card never expires
  • No dual enrollment
  • No blood quantum

Choctaw

  • Must have CDIB card to become a citizen
  • Citizenship card never expires
  • No dual enrollment
  • No blood quantum

Muscogee (Creek)

  • Must have CDIB card to become a citizen
  • Citizenship card expires every five years
  • No dual enrollment
  • No blood quantum

Seminole

  • Must have CDIB card to become a citizen
  • Citizenship card doesn't expire but must update with each new chief's signature
  • No dual enrollment
  • No blood quantum

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