If you are considering a DNA test, joining the Cherokee Nation, or simply tracing your own Cherokee blood line, here is important information you should know.
According to U.S. Census data, Native Americans intermarry at higher rates than any other group in the country. For many, this can mean losing tribal citizenship and federal benefits. The Cherokee allowed intermarriage by their members, and how that affects descendants today may surprise you.
For the Cherokee, a person’s clan was inherited from the mother, and all possessions passed to the daughters.
Relatives were only those related through their mother. Yet the tribe allowed intermarriage.
By the early 1800’s the Cherokee Nation included mixed-blood families of Spanish, Catawba, African, and white. Over time, white missionaries and their families, as well as former slaves were adopted into the tribe. Adopted persons not only became tribal members, they were considered to have always been Cherokee. There was even a case where a white man paid money to become a tribal member. Later the Delaware and Shawnee tribes also paid to be added to the Cherokee Nation.
If your ancestor was a white person married to a Cherokee before November 1, 1875, then they would have been a tribal member. Cherokee law was changed after that date and those that were married afterward lost that right.
More than DNA or census data, important family and citizenship information is hidden in the stories of Cherokee families. This is what connects us to the past and to those whose blood we have inherited. Our role is to share these stories and help find the links that connect us to the past.