The Cherokee Nation does not question anyone’s claim of heritage or ancestry, but merely points out the significant difference between claiming heritage and having citizenship in a federally recognized Indian tribe.
Fraudulent groups and individuals passing themselves off as Native American have become big business over the past two decades, with more than 200 groups that claim to be some sort of Cherokee tribe. There are also hundreds of individuals who claim to be Cherokee or from the Cherokee Nation and offer services that range from teaching culture to spiritual advice.
However, there are only three federally recognized Cherokee tribes – the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians both located in Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians located in North Carolina. The Cherokee Nation is alive and well in Tahlequah, Okla., as it has been for 170 years. Cherokee language and culture still thrive here, as well as in North Carolina with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. No group outside of North Carolina and Oklahoma has ever been recognized as a legitimate Cherokee sovereign.
Fake tribes and individuals with unverifiable ties to Native American citizenship often claim to be passing on Cherokee cultural knowledge and traditional arts. But the reality is these groups and individuals dilute true Indian culture and identity. Many of them pass along cultural information that is incorrect or that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.
When seeking authentic information about tribal culture, history, tradition, genealogy and government, we urge you to look carefully into claims made by groups that are not recognized by the federal government, especially those that claim to represent the Cherokee Nation.
The federal government is tasked with determining federal recognition of tribes and this is carried by the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs Branch of Acknowledgement & Research. Public Law 25, CFR Part 83, requires federally recognized tribes must meet specific requirements: American Indian entity since 1900, distinct community existing since historical times until present, maintained political influence or authority as autonomous entity, demonstrate governing documents including citizenship criteria, members descend from historical tribe(s) and not already be members of other tribes as well as no congressional legislation terminating or forbidding a federal relationship. Federal recognition is consistent.
For further information with regard to dispelling myths and exposing frauds, call the Cherokee Nation or the Bureau of Indian Affairs for a list of legitimate nations, tribes and bands. Visit the website at tribalrecognition.cherokee.org.
– Ginger Brown
Government Relations Officer