Cherokee Registry

Blood Quantum


The Cherokee Nation has no blood quantum requirement for tribal citizenship.

"Blood quantum" refers to describing the degree of Native American ancestry. Few people paid any attention to the concept of blood quantum until the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. The government used it to establish which individuals could be recognized as Native American and be eligible for financial and other benefits under treaties that were made, or sales of land.

Blood quantum laws required individuals to identify as belonging to only one tribe so despite their ancestry, some lost multiple tribal memberships, and overall numbers of registered members of many Native American tribes have been reduced. The Cherokee Nation does allow dual citizenship. All tribes have established their own criteria for membership. The Cherokee Nation has no blood quantum requirement.

Given the new revenues which many tribes are realizing from gambling casinos and other economic development, some have established more restrictive rules to limit membership. In 1904 the Eastern Cherokees won a million dollar judgment against the U.S. because of its violations of the treaties of 1835-36 and 1845. The payments were to go to all living persons who had been members of the Cherokee tribe at the time of the treaties, or to their descendants if they were deceased. Over 46,000 people filed claims.

Today the Eastern Band of Cherokee distributes 50 percent of distributable net revenue from gaming operations to its Tribal members.

The blood quantum laws have caused problems in Native American families whose members were inaccurately recorded as having differing full or partial descent from particular tribes. In some cases, family members or entire families have been excluded from being enrolled as members of their tribe even when they have no non-Native ancestors. 

 The smalller United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee does require a minimum 1/4 blood quantum.

As of 2012, each member of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Tribe in Minnesota received $1.08 million dollars per year.  Other tribes such as the Ogalala Lakota at Pine Ridge live below the poverty line with a quarter of the homes without running water or electricity.