http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgGene Norris, Cherokee Heritage Center senior genealogist, researches a client’s Cherokee ancestry at the CHC in Park Hill, Oklahoma. CHANDLER KIDD/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Gene Norris, Cherokee Heritage Center senior genealogist, researches a client’s Cherokee ancestry at the CHC in Park Hill, Oklahoma. CHANDLER KIDD/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Starting Cherokee ancestry research

11/14/2017 08:45 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center allows a person to peek into his or her Cherokee heritage and ancestry through its Cherokee Family Research Center.

Specialized resources are available for research in the genealogy department, including Dawes Rolls and other roll records, census records and historic documents related to Cherokee people.

To begin this research, there is a $30 first-hour fee and $30 is charged for every additional hour. If you are a Cherokee National Historical Society member seeking ancestry information, the fee is $20 per hour.

Gene Norris, senior genealogist, said he explores census records, cemetery records and birth records to obtain information about a person’s ancestry.

“Most folks applying have found somebody on the Dawes Roll that they think is their direct ancestor, and they want to apply for citizenship with the (Cherokee) Nation. The Registration department is very busy and has outsourced us as a research department,” Norris said.

The genealogical process does not happen in one day. The process for each case depends on how well the applicant fills out the application form for the research process, Norris said.

“We tell people when they come here it doesn’t matter what your ancestor was in a sense of their genetic make up. What matters is where did they live at during their lifetime, specifically at the time of Dawes (late 1800s, early 1900s),” he said.

Genealogical research begins with the person wishing to obtain his or her history. Certain documents such as birth certificates, death certificates and marriage certificates that go down the ancestral line as far as possible are helpful. The process can last up to eight weeks, Norris said.

Ashley Vann, genealogical researcher, said Cherokee people should study the Dawes Commission period to further understand the genealogical documents they receive, she said. Learning what a person’s Cherokee ancestors went through is an important part of the process she said.

“If people understood the historical background, then it is easier to understand why the records are the way that they are,” Vann said.

For more information on how to begin a genealogy process using CHC resources, visit or call Norris or Vann at 918-456-6007.

Start Your Cherokee Ancestry Search

1. Always begin with yourself. Have your birth certificate. Get your parents’ birth certificates and your grandparents’. Continue down your ancestral lines until you can go no further. Marriage certificates and death certificates also help. Obtain them if you can. You need a paper trail to prove relation to any ancestors.

2. Talk to relatives. Your oldest relatives usually have the most information about your family. Check for a family Bible with recorded family information. Hand copy the information or shoot photos. Family Bibles may be old and fragile. Record or take notes of conversations with family members or friends.

3. Use a loose-leaf notebook with plastic sheet covers to store your papers, family pedigree charts and “proofs” such as birth certificates.

4. The Cherokee people had several rolls taken of them for governmental purposes beginning in 1817. Not all Cherokees were included on these rolls, particularly if they were not living in the Cherokee Nation when a roll was taken. These are considered supplemental resources to a genealogical search.

5. Basic information regarding your Cherokee ancestor is required to use these rolls. You should know the approximate date of his/her birth and where he/she lived. Cherokee rolls are limited geographically. If a Cherokee move out of the Cherokee Nation it is likely they will not be located on these rolls and certainly not on some rolls. One exception is if your ancestor’s permanent address was still in the Cherokee Nation at the time of the Dawes Rolls and was serving in the military, at school or in prison. It is the Dawes Rolls that Cherokee Nation uses to determine whether or not a person is eligible for citizenship.

6. The Guion Miller Roll is another source for Cherokee family information. It was taken in the early 20th century for money due to Cherokees for land taken in the southeastern United States in the 1830s. The application asked for family members back to before the Trail of Tears. The family did not have to be living in the Cherokee Nation to apply but had to prove their family lived in the Cherokee Nation before the removal.

7. Other rolls included the Drennan Roll of 1851, Siler Roll and Chapman Roll. They were census records.

Research Sources

• Cherokee Family Research Center – Its primary goal is to promote understanding of Cherokee family history and documentation by educating the public and housing all resources specific to Cherokee genealogy. – Index of the Guion Miller applications and Dawes Final Rolls as well as other tribal enumerations. – Trail of Tears Association is a citizens organization of national and international members with state chapters in the nine states the Trail of Tears traverses: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee. – Compiled Cherokee family histories with sources from the collaboration of James Hicks and Jerry L. Clark, a retired archivist and Cherokee Nation citizen. – Provides access to numerous Census listings, including the 1900 federal Census listing all Indian Territory residents. (subscription site) – A digitization website with images of Native American documents, including the Dawes Final Roll of the Five Tribes and Guion Miller. (subscription site) – Collection of free family history and genealogy look-ups with digitization of some state records (free site that requires username and password for images) – Collection of more than 88 million grave sites with some photos – A research division of the Oklahoma Historical Society that includes marriage records, census listings and 3.5 million Indian records. – U.S. National Archives website for Native American records.


02/17/2018 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix is now taking names of elders and military veterans to provide free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper. In November, Cherokee Nation Businesses donated $10,000 to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder/Veteran Fund. The fund provides free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper to elders 65 and older and military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens. Subscription rates are $10 for one year. “The Elder/Veteran Fund was put into place to provide free subscriptions to our Cherokee elders and veterans,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Some of our elders and veterans are on a very limited budget, and other items have a priority over buying a newspaper subscription. The donations we receive have a real world impact on our elders and veterans, so every dollar donated to the Elder Fund is significant.” Using the Elder/Veteran Fund, elders who are 65 and older as well as veterans can apply to receive a free one-year subscription by visiting, calling or writing the Cherokee Phoenix office and requesting a subscription. The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. To call about the fund, call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email or No income guidelines have been specified for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last. Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder/Veteran Fund donations. The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website, <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, that posts news seven days a week about the Cherokee government, people, history and events of interest. The monthly newspaper is also posted in PDF format to the website at the beginning of each month.
02/13/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Human Services Burial Assistance Program continues to help families with funeral expenses. For nearly 20 years, the program has helped provide tribal citizens financial aid to bury family members who have passed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs paying a portion of those expenses. “It’s for people that have little or no resources to bury a loved one,” CN Family Assistance Manager Angela King said. In fiscal year 2017, BAP provided aid for 395 burials, and so far in FY 2018 (Oct. 1 to Jan. 31) the CN has aided with 80 burials. The tribe’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. The program is designed to alleviate financial stress that comes with funeral costs for low-income families. The deceased’s immediate family’s income must not exceed greater than 150 percent of the National Poverty Level income standards. To be eligible, the deceased must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe: have resided in the CN jurisdiction six months prior to date of death: must not, or family must not, have resources that exceed $2,900, which include life insurance, veteran’s benefits, savings, checking or prepaid burial; and must select a funeral home that has an active burial contract with the tribe. The CN is contracted with 76 funeral homes in Oklahoma. The CN and BIA pay depending on two options offered through the BAP. Option 1 is restricted to CN citizens, if eligible, and services will be paid in full to eliminate financial burdens. This service provides at minimum a 20-gage steel casket, concrete outer container/grave liner, tent and cemetery set up, memorial package, death certificate, burial notice in a local newspaper and traditional professional services provided by a contracted funeral home to conduct the service. The CN and BIA payout for the Option 1 contracted service must not exceed $3,600 for the service to be paid in full. Option 2 is available to any citizen of a federally recognized tribe, who must meet all income and eligibility standards. The selected funeral home will provide services for any eligible non-CN citizen, as negotiated by the funeral home and the family. The CN will make a single payment up to $2,800 toward the service’s total cost. The family is responsible for the remaining balance due toward the funeral home costs. An eligible Cherokee family that wishes to switch from Option 1 to Option 2 may do so under the negotiation between funeral home and family. The CN will make a single payment of $2,800 toward funeral costs with the family responsible for the remaining balance. King said the reason some families switch is because a family member wanting a different service not provided in Option 1. She said the family is allowed to switch but is responsible for any extra expenses. “Since this is an income-based program it has to be someone outside of the household that is responsible for the remaining amount. Because we don’t want that family owing a funeral home because if they really can’t afford a funeral they’re going to pick the option 1 where they don’t owe anything,” King said. For more information, call 918-453-5000 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>. <strong>Burial Assistance Eligibility Guidelines</strong> 1. The deceased must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe, verified by a tribal citizenship card (blue card for Cherokee Nation citizens). A Certificate Degree of Indian Blood card is not proof of citizenship and will not be accepted. 2. The deceased must have been a resident of the CN jurisdiction for six months prior to date of death. 3. The deceased and his/her immediate family many not have resources (life insurance, veteran’s benefits, cash, savings accounts, etc.) exceeding $2,500. 4. The deceased and his/her immediate family may not have income for the previous month greater than 150 percent of the National Poverty Level income standards. For example, for a household of two, income cannot exceed $2,003 for the previous month or $24,030 for the past 12 months. 5. The family must select a funeral home that has an active burial contract with the CN. <strong>Needed Documents</strong> 1. Residential verification that the deceased has lived within the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction for the past six months. The document must verify the physical location of the residence (utility bill or a rent receipt with the physical location listed), Department of Humans Service statement, statement from a nursing home, 911 statements or any other document including a physical address. 2. Tribal citizenship card. 3. Proof of income for the previous 12 months for the deceased and his/her immediate family. Verification documents include, but are not limited to pay stubs, copies of benefit checks if they cover the previous 12 months, benefit award letters, etc. 4. Proof of all available financial resources including but not limited to bank statements, savings account statements, life insurance police and veterans benefits statements, etc. 5. Social Security Card <strong>Option 1</strong> This option is restricted to eligible Cherokee Nation citizens, and if selected, the service will be paid in full (less any available family resources) by the CN, totally eliminating the eligible family of any financial burden normally associated with funeral expense. This service is limited and cannot be altered. The service shall provide at minimum a 20-gage steel casket, concrete outer container/grave liner (non-biodegradable), tent and cemetery set up, memorial package, one death certificate, burial notice in local paper and the traditional professional service provide by the contracted funeral home conducting the service. If an eligible family selects any type of cremation, the funeral home will explain the contracted options available to the family and if services are within the contract, this service will also be paid in full. <strong>Option 2</strong> This option is for any eligible family where the deceased is not a Cherokee Nation citizen but is a citizen of another federally recognized tribe. The eligible family can select any funeral service the funeral home will sell them and the CN will pay a one-time maximum payment of $2,800 (minus available resources). The family will be totally responsible for all costs above this amount. The family must meet income, resource and residential requirements for this service. This option will also be made available to eligible CN citizens who may have family members (not living in the deceased immediate household) that wish to upgrade the contracted service identified in Option 1. The eligible Cherokee family can select any service the funeral home will sell them and the CN will make the one-time payment in the amount of $2,800 (less available resources) and the family will be totally responsible for paying the balance. Many funeral homes have active contracts with the CN to provide all services outlined in options 1 and 2 identified above. If the family selects a funeral home that is not listed, contact a local Tribal Services office. This list is updated periodically.
02/12/2018 04:00 PM
MUSKOGEE – Cherokee Nation officials and ambassadors delivered hundreds of handmade Valentine cards to veterans on Feb. 9 to the Jack C. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center in time for Valentine’s Day. Deputy Chief and U.S. Navy veteran S. Joe Crittenden, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., as well as Miss Cherokee Madison Whitekiller and Junior Miss Cherokee Danya Pigeon, gave the cards to dozens of veterans at the medical center as part of tribe’s Valentines for Vets program. Now in its 10th year, the Valentines for Vets program shares handmade Valentines with Cherokee and non-Cherokee veterans across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. “We always enjoy going out into our communities and shaking hands with the men and women that served this great country,” Crittenden said. “This program gives us a chance to spend time with veterans and remind them that we care and are so grateful for their service.” This year, Cherokee Nation Businesses, Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council, Cherokee Immersion Charter School and other area schools and churches donated cards. Veterans at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center, Claremore Veterans Center and veteran health clinics in Jay, Vinita and Tulsa benefitted from the handmade cards. For U.S. Army veteran Nelson Brown, 72, the visit was a chance to make some friends on his last day at the Muskogee medical center. “It was such an honor to have a visit with the folks from Cherokee Nation today,” Brown said. “It was fun talking to the Deputy Chief, a fellow veteran, and meeting all of the nice young people. You don’t see much except nurses and doctors in here, so it was a real treat.” The tribe’s Valentines for Vets program was started in 2008 by the late Rogan Noble, a Marine Corps veteran and advocate for the tribe’s veterans’ affairs. The program is held in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Salute to Veteran Patients week. For more information, call 918-772-4166.
02/12/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH (AP) – After the massive floods that impacted the greater Tahlequah area in 2015 and 2017, Cherokee Nation Emergency Management is taking a proactive initiative to prepare the community in case it happens again. The CNEM worked to fill 10,000 sandbags for use by community members in the tribe’s 14 jurisdictional counties, with the goal reducing the chances of floodwater destruction. “Every year I’ve been here, we have had a flood,” Jeremie Fisher, CNEM manager, said. “So we’re going to be putting them strategically at different locations for our citizens: in the community centers, any of our community partners in our 14 counties that might need them, municipalities and other people who may need some on hand, just in case. The goal is to be proactive and help mitigate things before it happens.” During the past two large floods, homes were lost, families were displaced and businesses suffered serious damage to infrastructure. CNEM was just one of the local entities that witnessed the destruction. While a similar flood would likely cause damage to the city of Tahlequah no matter what, Philip Manes said he hopes the sandbags will prevent him from having to see as many displaced families. “When we were helping people, I don’t think it had sunk in for them, yet,” said Manes. “A lot of them still hadn’t realized what they had lost, and they lost a lot. We were actually pulling out some people in the creek.” In 2017, once the Tahlequah community learned about the flood, emergency agencies all over the area were scrambling to prepare. This year, forward thinking, combined with a new sandbag machine, has made it easier for the CNEM to get ready. “Last year, I took five people down to Sallisaw, and we filled sandbags one afternoon right before the flood came,” said Fisher. “That was all done by hand and it was quite a deal. This machine eliminates a lot of the back work and makes it a lot easier.” The CNEM has already bagged around 1,000 bags after the tribe purchased 50 tons of sand. Fisher said 50 more tons of sand could be needed before all 10,000 bags are filled. There will be no cost for the sandbags, which the tribe planned to begin distributing Jan. 30. There’s no limit to how many bags a person can get, but with each bag weighing approximately 40 pounds, they will be distributed within reason. Ability to receive sandbags is not dependent on a person’s location in the 14 counties. Recipients do not have to be CN citizens. “It’s really a community thing,” said Fisher. “When the river floods, it really doesn’t matter; water runs through Cherokee and non-Cherokee homes the same way. So the idea is that we would just be an asset to our 14 counties and have a resource they may not be able to have.”
01/30/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation has provided six vans to four northeast Oklahoma transit service companies that provide rides for thousands of CN citizens and employees each year. The six vans were disbursed among Ki Bois Area Transit System (KATS), Pelivan, Cimarron and Muskogee County Transit, with KATS and Pelivan each receiving two new vans and Cimarron and Muskogee County Transit each receiving one. “Many of our Cherokee Nation citizens rely on these four public transportation services to get to and from work, school, the grocery store and their medical appointments on a daily basis,” Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden said. “Easy, affordable transportation remains an essential part of life. I’m proud of the Cherokee Nation for helping ensure these transit services meet those transportation needs, not only for our citizens but for non-Cherokees as well.” The Ford 350 Transit vans were purchased through a Federal Transit Administration grant worth more than $321,500, with an additional $46,200 being provided through CN Tribal Transportation Program funds. “Getting two more vans from Cherokee Nation is a blessing,” Charla Sloan, Ki Bois Area Transit System director, said. KATS operates more than 200 buses and vans in a 12-county area providing curb-to-curb, and in some circumstances door-to-door, on-demand transportation. “Replacing two old vans with high mileage with two new vans that are more efficient and safer is better for the riders and KATS,” Sloan said. “Partnering with Cherokee Nation has been great for the people and great for KATS. It helps us maximize funding from the state and federal government that benefits the people with reliable transportation. More vehicles on the road opens the door to opportunity for Cherokee Nation citizens.” In fiscal year 2017, the CN invested nearly $265,000 in federal TTP funding to enhance several area transit program operations, which totaled 102,148 rides. Each year, the tribe uses a portion of its TTP funds to provide additional transit services for CN citizens and the general public. Native Americans and tribal employees can access rides on fixed routes and on demand service transit buses for $1 round trip. For more information on CN Transit Services or the contracted transit providers, call 1-800-256-0671 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
01/25/2018 04:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH – With a flex training beginning Feb. 12, officials with the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cherokee County hope to have more area residents help serve needy children by becoming advocates. Liz Rainbolt, CASA advocate coordinator, said while CASA has 24 advocates there is always a need for more. “We just graduated three in November and we’re again starting in February, so we’re hoping to have more than that, but we lose a couple and gain, but we’re hovering at about 24 right now. If we had 100 volunteers I’d be great, but we would still be wanting more. More cases can be done. More kids can be served.” The advocate role, Rainbolt said, is to “speak and be the voice for child in court.” “What that means is they gather information about the child’s current situation. They don’t investigate what happened. That’s already been done because they’re now involved in the court…but what is their current situation? Are they in the best placement? They then gather that information and they put it all into a court report,” she said. “It’s an extra set of eyes independent from any Department of Human Services Child Welfare or Indian Child Welfare.” Rainbolt said CASA’s trainings require 30 hours served in class, online and in court. “We serve Adair County court, Cherokee County court and then two judges in tribal court on two different Fridays. We have them (volunteers) observe each court because they could get a case in any of them,” she said. Aside from the required hours, Rainbolt said CASA deals with Cherokee and Native American children and requires advocates to have a “diversity day” when they tour the Cherokee Heritage Center. “Because we work with Cherokee children, Native American children…we do a diversity thing where we go out to the (Cherokee) heritage center, take the tour through the museum and so forth.” After they complete the hours, Rainbolt said volunteers are sworn in as court officers by judges at the courts they serve. Rainbolt said before becoming an advocate there is an application process, three background checks, reference letters and in-depth interviews that must me completed and passed. An applicant must also be 21 years old. Rainbolt said she’s seen people who have full-time jobs and those who are retired become advocates. She added that advocates create their own schedules so that more people who want to become advocates can do so. “The only thing they have to do is, I can’t change the dockets. They are during the week during the day. Meetings with Indian Child Welfare or meetings with the caseworkers they’re during the day, during the week. But other than that…it’s on their schedule,” she said. She said it’s also important that potential advocates dedicate at least 18 months to the program. “We do ask for commitment of 18 months or more because the longevity of the case statistically last about 18 months,” she said. “We really want a commitment. They’re there to be their (children) champion, their voice in court.” For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or visit CASA on Facebook by searching “Cherokee CASA” or call 918-456-8788. For a list of Oklahoma CASA programs, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.