“Over a hundred years ago Black Elk had a vision of the time when Indian people would heal from the devastating effects of European migration. In his vision the Sacred Hoop, which had been broken, would be mended in seven generations. The children born into this decade will be the seventh generation”.
FINDING YOUR NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE
There are many people who while not being full blood native Americans do have ancestors that were Indians. If you think that there is any chance that you may have some Native American ancestry in your family it may be worth your while to check it out and find out the truth about your ancestry. There are a variety of reasons people begin to look into the past to find out if the do have Native American ancestry. Some people are interested in the benefits that are available from the government and in being able to become part of a tribe recognized by the government. Other people just want to know about their past and where they came from, along with their family histories and traditions. Others want to verify if a handed down family story, passed from generation to generation that they descended from an Indian, is fact or fiction.
My husband’s mother told me of their traditional family story about their Delaware lineage. Several generations ago her family had a farm in Buck's County Pennsylvania, traditional homelands of the Lenape Delaware. A band of the Delaware Indians came through and set-up their encampment on the Slife farms lower back quarter along the creek. After a short stay the Natives packed up and left. As boys will be, their 2 sons immediately went down to the creek to look for arrowheads or other disposed souvenir type items. What they found instead of artifacts was a sickly infant baby girl wrapped in a blanket crying for attention. The Delaware girl was adopted by the family and later on one of the sons married the Indian girl. Hence forth the Native American blood was handed down to my in-laws.
I’m a bit of a hobby historian and I questioned her story. I questioned it as I’ve heard this same story repeated by 2 other un-related families claiming the exact same history! First of all, no Native American woman would leave her infant child behind while still alive. My guess is that it was during the infamous Trail Of Tears for the Delaware people who were being forced west due to European land greed. I feel that the starved mother along with her people were exhausted by the long walk, had no home and their future was bleak. Any mother who loved her dear little child would look at a farmers family with a warm house, plenty of food and clothing as a godsend. I bet my eye-teeth that this unfortunate mother gave her infant daughter up for adoption in the hopes that she would have a better chance of survival.
I decided to begin my own investigation. I started by renting a DVD titled “How To Trace Your Native American Heritage” by Rich-Heape Films from blockbusters.com which was very inspirational and outlined steps to take.
The most important #1 clue that you need is to know the tribe you have ancestry with. At least 6 times a year through my photographic website, which has nothing to do with lineage, I get calls or emails from people trying to locate their Indian heritage. Not one ever knows the tribe. But they can rattle off the stories, sometimes names like Great Aunt Susan or places such as he lived along the Missouri River in Kentucky. If I’m their only last hope to finding out their Native heritage then they are SOL. All I can do is tell them to talk with their relatives, research birth/death certificates, gather old photographs or perhaps their family bible will have clues. My best advice is to talk with parents, grandparents or if you’re really lucky great grandparents before they all croak. Even if this story was never to be discussed well it needs to and NOW. Do not take any no for an answer. Let your family members know how important it is for you to be able to know about all of your ancestors and a heritage that you can be proud of.
Begin by asking specific tribe afliliation of your relative, or what tribes would have been in that area, dates, names, places or how many generations back as this will help figure out your blood percentage. Research, research and research as you will need copies of all documentation that you seek out.
Contact the specific tribe that your heritage is associated with. You can google for contact info. Many tribes were re-located between 1835-1930’s so you may have to call a few tribal offices in a couple different states. Such as the Delaware, my husbands people, who were forced out of their traditional homelands of New Jersey, pushed towards Pennsylvania and lands along the Ohio River, then forced further west where many would parish during their long walk to Oklahoma. Here’s where the Delaware tribe and their government offices are located today. When you call your tribal office let them know that you are searching for your heritage and request their particular guidelines, as each tribe is different. Tribal Registration office’s generally will have all historic records available in their archives that pertain to their peoples history. This can be a huge asset for your own research.
Some people want to become enrolled members of a federally recognized tribe while others might want to learn more about from whom and where they came. When establishing descent from an Indian tribe for membership and enrollment purposes, the individual must provide genealogical documentation. The documentation must prove that the individual lineally descends from an ancestor who was a member of the federally recognized tribe from which the individual claims descent. Once you are a member there are many benefits you may be eligible for. There are Tribal benefits and Bureau of Indian Affairs benefits that you can look into receiving. Such benefits include assistance for education, loans at low interest, and being declared a minority. Minority status can help you when finding a job or going to college. Not only will you have the chance to gain benefits but you also have the opportunity to give back to your people. Learn the history and traditions of your tribe through books, sponsor fund raisers, donate to special causes located on the reservation and make a point to visit your tribe during festivals and celebrations.
• Family History Library located in Salt Lake City, Utah.
• www.dnatribes.com genetic heritage
• Census of Indian Tribes, National
Archives Washington DC
• Dawes Role
What do you have when you get 16 Cherokee in one room?
Answer: A full blood.