The Roll Number issue has been a poison pen matter for the last few years. True, once Tribal benefits became enhanced (and then better known), there seemed to be a mass effort for just about everyone to seek Native American bloodlines ... and maybe a few "bennies".
But the Roll issue is not as easy as it would seem, especially with many of the other Tribes aside from the Choctaw. The Choctaw were a fairly cohesive nation upon, during and following their forced movement, and played a significant role in the establishment of many communities (and counties) within the State of Oklahoma. That organization and cohesiveness allowed them to be better represented on the Federal Rolls, but not to the extent that many would believe.
During my many years of researching I have encountered several situations where the matter wasn't as cut and dried. For whatever reason they had back then, a good number of Native Americans simply did not get on the roll. I have heard "hiding their Indian blood", "seeing no point in having to listed as an official Indian", and even "just didn't give a damn" when discussing why a family member didn't get on the roll. In some ways, I can see their point ... the one about having to be on a list created by the white government in order to be called an Indian. That to me just seems vulgar and insultive.
But the Roll issue goes back further. In my own case, I have an ancestor (1804-1867) that was full blood Lenni Lenape. That tribe split in the later part of the 1700's while moving westward. One part (Munsee) basically decided Canada was their best option and went that way. One part went to Kansas and later into Oklahoma, where it was combined with several smaller tribes and bands from the Delaware/New Jersey regions and became what are now called the "Delawares". She died before there was even an official role then out, and her children were in the northeast of New York and New Hampshire at the time of the first concept of roles. They chose to hide their Native American blood. When I tried to discuss the matter with my grandmother before she died, I was only told that "polite people don't talk about that". So be it. I was (and am) concerned with tracing ancestry, not trying to find a free hand-out or "benefit package".
But in reference to the Rolls themselves, the federal government law requires that any attempt to confirm Native American heritage (official) must be linked to a decision a ancestor might have made back in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Even with accurate and valid genealogy records and documents, the law requires that "official" acknowledgement be based solely on whether or not that family member was on the roll. I have a very nice letter from the Delaware Nation that welcomes me (and still corresponds with me) but explained as follows:
"It would be nice if there was a master roll of everyone who has any degree of Lenape blood, but there is not. Our rolls only go back in time to 1862, when our ancestors, on their forced exodus from the East, were living in Kansas. In order to be enrolled on our tribal roll, your ancestor by blood must have been living in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1906, and enrolled on our official tribal base roll. This is the requirement set forth by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and follows THE CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS, PART 83 - PROCEDURES FOR ESTABLISHING THAT AN AMERICAN INDIAN GROUP EXISTS AS AN INDIAN TRIBE."
That law, with its unique requirments in both location and dates, has prevented many with Native American blood being being "officially" recognised as such. I have seen this also in many with Cherokee blood.
I too know that there are many trying to get a CDIB purely for material reasons, but there are some out there that are just desirous of exploring their true heritage and ancestry. I am truly glad that the Native Americans have the pride today that they were denied for several hundred years ... in their own land. I also wish that our government had many of the controls on its "assistance programs" as do the various Tribes. Maybe the government programs wouldn't be so full of people just looking for an easy way out of actually working for a living. We can learn from the Tribes there. But having said that, we shouldn't look down at those today that are trying to touch the past ... and are blocked by a decision made, or technicality of whereabouts at the time of the Rolls being being enacted, or any other of the causes for an otherwise eligible Native American not to have been placed on the Rolls of time.
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