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American Indian or Native American?

Not all Indigenous people are considered American Indians. Members of recognized tribes are legally considered American Indians. Being an American Indian is a legal term that came about in the 1930’s. So, when we say American Indian, we’re only talking about someone from a recognized tribe with associated benefits.

It's important to acknowledge the diversity of Indigenous Peoples' cultures, traditions, and languages throughout the Western Hemisphere. When talking about a particular tribe or nation, learning, and using accurate terms specific to the community can prevent stereotypes and encourage cultural understanding and sensitivity among others.

American Indian, Indian, Native American,  or Native are acceptable and often used interchangeably in the United States; however, Native Peoples often have individual preferences on how they would like to be addressed. 

However, some indigenous people reject this term because, again, white people assigned it to them, according to Crystal Raypole’s March 2021  Healthline article . Instead, they prefer to identify as Indian or American Indian.

Which Term Should You Use?

According to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian,  both terms are acceptable.

“The consensus, however, is that whenever possible, Native people prefer to be called by their specific tribal name. In the United States, Native American has been widely used but is falling out of favor with some groups, and the terms American Indian or indigenous American are preferred by many Native people.”

Federal and State Recognized Tribes

Dawes Roll

Locating Documents

Additional Records

What are Federal Recognized Tribes?

  • ​ A federally recognized tribe is an American Indian or Alaska Native tribal entity that is recognized as having a government-to-government relationship with the United States, with the attached responsibilities, powers, limitations, and obligations. 
  • Furthermore, federally recognized tribes possess certain inherent rights of self-government (i.e., tribal sovereignty) and are entitled to receive certain federal benefits, services, and protections because of their relationship with the United States. 
  • Federal recognition also brings a strong measure of sovereign control over reservation lands. The Supreme Court ruled in the 1832 case Worcester v. Georgia that a tribe is free from interference by the state government whose land surrounds it (unless the federal government deems otherwise, as it has in the case of state criminal laws). 
  • Five Civilized Tribes—Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole nations were never on “reservations”. They were sovereign nations and had tribal councils, courts, and constitutions.

      The U.S. government officially recognizes 574 Indian tribes in the contiguous 48 states and Alaska. These federally recognized tribes are eligible for funding and services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, either directly or through contracts, grants, or compacts.

  • The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians  has been seeking federal recognition since the 1930s. In December 2019, the Little Shell became the 574th federally recognized tribe in the United States.  

Indian Affairs 


Tribal Sovereignty

There are currently 574 federally recognized Native American tribes in the U.S. and every one of them has the right to govern themselves and their lands. 

What are State Recognized Tribes?

  • State-recognized tribes in the United States are organizations that identify as Native American tribes or heritage groups that do not meet the criteria for federally recognized Indian tribes but have been recognized by a process established under assorted state government laws for varying purposes.
  • ​State recognition does not confer benefits under federal law unless federal law authorizes such benefits, as is the case for state recognized tribes under ANA’s Native American Programs Act (NAPA).
  •  According to a 2013 listing of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), there are sixteen states that have recognized Indian tribes (i.e., Native American groups with self-government authority) outside of the federal processes—Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. 

Federal Register

What are the Forgotten Tribes?

Truth about Federal Unrecognized Tribes in the United States..


Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes

Freedmen and the Dawes Roll

There were over 20,000 people on the Dawes Roll and three other essential records that are part of the Dawes RECORDS. There are also many people who do not have a clear understanding of what the purpose of the roll was when it was created. This video goes into detail about the amazing records that reflect pre-Oklahoma statehood families of African descent

AAngela Walton-Raji ​

Finding Documentation Before the Dawes

  • Cherokee Freedmen

  • Chickasaw Freedmen

  • Choctaw Freedmen

  • Choctaw Nation Roll

woman in white and black dress

Dawes Rolls

woman in black and white long sleeve shirt

Enrollment Cards

woman in white long sleeve shirt

Application Jackets

grayscale photo of man wearing hat

Land Allotment Records

Dawes Act - (Dawes Rolls)

Freedmen and the Dawes Roll

There were over 20,000 people on the Dawes Roll and three other essential records that are part of the Dawes RECORDS. There are also many people who do not have a clear understanding of what the purpose of the roll was when it was created. This video goes into detail about the amazing records that reflect pre-Oklahoma statehood families of African descent

Angela Walton-Raji

The purpose of the Dawes Roll was to create a list of citizens and Freedmen of the Five Tribes, who were determined to be eligible to receive land allotments. Every person---including minor children and infants all received allotments of land that ranged from 40 acres to 160 acres. Persons placed on the Dawes Roll pertain to persons who were from Indian Territory, which became Oklahoma in 1907. 

( Note---the roll was NOT for tribal enrollment---the purpose was for the allotment of land. )  

  • Passed in 1887 under President Grover Cleveland
  • Allowed the federal government to divide tribal lands, Native Americans who accepted the division were allowed to become U.S. citizens.
  • 160 acres of farmland or 320 acres of grazing land was granted to the head of each Native American family.
  • To received allotment, enroll with the Office of Indian Affairs. Their name went on the "Dawes rolls".

Oklahoma Historical Society

Blood Quantum, Freedmen, Intermarriage, and Adopted Citizens

Tribal associations are listed as "by Blood," "Intermarriage," or "Freedmen." Intermarriage means the person was married to a citizen of the tribe. You may also see "IW" for intermarried white, or "A" for adopted. Freedmen are individuals who were formerly enslaved by one the Five Tribes. The term is also used to describe their descendants. Although there was intermarriage between Blacks and Indians, the Dawes Commission enrolled people of mixed heritage as Freedmen, and indicated no blood relation to the tribal nation.

  • Freedmen received 40 acres each, so if you had a family of 7 that would equal 280 acres of land.
  • If a person was on the Blood Roll they would receive 320 acres vs the 40 acres of someone not on the Blood Roll.   

Step 1: Introduction Why Search the Dawes Rolls? 

The "Five Civilized Tribes": Cherokee, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles. 

Those found eligible for the Final Rolls were entitled to an allotment of land, usually as a homestead.

The Roll contain more than 101,000names from 1898-1914 (primarily from 1899-1906). They can be searched to discover the enrollee's name, sex, blood degree, and census card number. The census card may provide additional genealogical information, and may also contain reference to earlier rolls, such as the 1880 Cherokee census. A census card was generally accompanied by an "application jacket". The Jacket then sometimes contain valuable supporting documentation, such as birth and death affidavits, marriage licenses, and correspondence.

Today these five tribes continue to use the Dawes Rolls as the basis for determining tribal membership. They usually require applications to provide proof of descent from a person who is listed on these rolls. 

Before you can effectively use the online index to find a person in the Final Rolls, you need to know:

  •  Your ancestor's name 
  • The name of the person's tribe.
  • If you do know the individual's name and their tribe : Proceed to Step 2
  • If you don't know the person's tribe: you can look for clues in the 1900 Census

For those Indians living in predominantly India area, there were special Indian schedules in the 1900 Census identifying one's tribe and parent's tribes. For those Indians living among the general population, only one's color or race was designated, such as In dian or white, etc. 

Note: For the 1900 Census, start with the Soundex Index. You may first want to read background on the Soundex indexing system.

If your ancestor's tribe is not identified in the 1900 Census, once you find where your ancestor was living, you can consult books such as The Indian Tribes of North America, by John R. Swanton, for information on the tribes living in each state. Other good sources are A Guide to Indian Tribes of Oklahoma, by Muriel H. Wright, and The Indians of Texas, by W.W. Newcomb, Jr., for tribes in those areas.

Step 2: Check to see if the Person's Census Card (Enrollment) is described online 

​ Note: Only a portion of the census cards are described online, and none for the Choctaw. If you are looking for a Choctaw, you may still want to do the online search as described below, since there may be records online for an 1896 application. (The 1896 applications were declared invalid by the Dawes Commission, but they may still prove helpful to your research. Copies are available from Fort Worth.) 

By first doing a simple name search for Dawes census (enrollment) cards in the Archival Research Catalog (ARC), you may be able to bypass a search for your ancestor in the Final Rolls Index and Final Rolls (Steps 3 and 4). The goal of using the Final Rolls Index and Final Rolls is to obtain the person's census card number, as that will then lead you to additional records. Since many of the census card descriptions are available online, a successful result from ARC will immediately provide you with the person's census card number, and you may be able to go straight to Step 5: What You Can Do Next! Please note that only a small number of the enrollment cards described online have digital copies attached to them. 

Dawes Census Card description online

National Archives

In the search bar fill in as follows:

  • Either the person's name , or alternatively, enter "Enrollment and" (without quotes) and the person's last name.
  • For this example we're entering the name Aleck Prince.

National Archive Example

Aleck Prince Will be used for this example

Enrollment for Census Card description

Dawes Enrollment Card #196 with 13 images


If you can't find the person in your search, or you find a census cards for people with similar names, not the one you are looking for your next step should be: Search the Index to the Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory.

Index to the Final Rolls​​​​

The rejected applications are part of the  and collection. They have a D, for doubtful , or R, for rejected.

Locating information on Dawes Rolls, Enrollment Cards, Application Jackets and Land Allotment Records on, Fold3, and additional sites.

Records for Application Jacket, Land Allotment and Enrollment Card​​

Application Jacket

1896 Application files can include:

  • Affidavits and Depositions
  • Correspondence
  • Objections and Notices of Appeal
  • List of Evidence

Land Allotment 

There is a land allotment file for each approved enrollment number, but they are not available on microfilm. For copies of these files or for more information about rejected applications contact the   National Archives at Fort Worth  

Enrollment Card

  • Approved Dawes Census Card


  • Denied Freedmen Dawes Census Card


  • Rejected Dawes Census Card


Eastern Cherokee Application Denial Response for Claims


Doubtful, Rejected/Cancelled, and Overturned 

  • ​Doubtful — They will have a Census (Enrollment) Card. Application required further documents.  Names may or may not appear on the Final Roll depending if they were accepted or rejected. Dawes Roll contact the tribe, If not on the Final Dawes Roll, See  Guion Miller Roll
  • Rejected/Cancelled — The Commission rejected nearly two-thirds of the applications. Names will not appear on the Final Roll, but they will have a Census (Enrollment) Card. If Rejected, See  Guion Miller Roll
  • Overturned — Applications for citizenship under the Act of 1896 were overturned. Only those that reapplied and were accepted will be found on the Final Roll. If they  did not reapply, 

Guion Miller Roll (Eastern Cherokee)

The Guion Miller Roll is a list of Eastern Cherokee who applied for compensation resulting from a 1906 lawsuit. Those who applied were descendants of a person that had been included in the forced removal to Indian Territory and not affiliated with any other tribe other than the Cherokee. 

  • Find your ancestor on the Guion Miller Roll Index and record the application number through one of the following methods:   

    1) or        

    2) Microfilm: M-685 (index is on roll #1).                                   

    3) Books: 

    • Cherokee by Blood: Records of Eastern Cherokee ancestry in the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906-1910 by Jerry Wright Jordan (973.0049755 J764) 
    • Guion Miller roll “plus” of Eastern Cherokee, east & west of Mississippi “1909” by Bob Blankenship (970.004975 B611 2nd) (includes both accepted and rejected) 

  • Find the Eastern Cherokee Applications of the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906-1909 through one of the following methods: 
    •  Database: Fold3 (listed alphabetically) 
    •   Microfilm: M-1104 If you are a direct lineal descendant, contact the tribe for registration application and requirements.  If No , see the book Cherokee Roots by Bob Blankenship (970.3 B611)  to see if your ancestor was listed on another roll. If Yes, your ancestor may be Cherokee, but you may not qualify for tribal membership. They  may have belonged to another tribe, they may have chosen not to be recognized as a Native American, or they may not have been Native American.

Source: Midwest Genealogy Center, Mid-Continent Public Library 

Indian Pioneer Papers Indian Pioneer Papers 

The Indian-Pioneer Papers oral history collection spans from 1861 to 1936. It includes typescripts of interviews conducted during the 1930s by government workers with thousands of Oklahomans regarding the settlement of Oklahoma and Indian territories, as well as the condition and conduct of life there. Consisting of approximately 80,000 entries, the index to this collection may be accessed via personal name, place name, or subject.

Indian-Pioneer Paper Collection 

Vary your search with different Keywords:

  • Name of Ancestor, Name of Township, Name of School


  • Freedmen, Freedman, Negro