Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. ~ Chief Seattle (~1786-1866), Suquamish and Duwamish chief
It can be sometimes difficult to trace Native American genealogy for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, there are fewer records available. These communities often placed a higher value on oral histories and traditions than western societies.
Most of these existent records are written from the perspective of the dominant culture – that is, colonial or United States officers. For instance, a birth record in a Catholic church might mention a father’s name if he was European, but a mother (if she was indigenous) may only be listed as “an Indian woman.” Sometimes, a surname may be denoted as “Savage” in records because the individual was a Native American.
Additionally, many individuals tried to hide their Native heritage in order to improve their lives socially and economically.
Furthermore, DNA results can tell us only so much and many tribes do not accept DNA results in their applications for membership. After all, DNA can only tell us what percentage of Native DNA you possess, not which tribe from which you may descend.
The recognized major tribes and bands in Tennessee are the Catawba, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Muscogee (Creek), Natchez, Shawnee, and Yuchi.
AccessGenealogy: Native American – A guide to Native American genealogy and links to resources.
African-NativeAmerican.com – A website dedicated to the blended families of African and Native American heritage.
American Indian Heritage: National Park Service – “The stories and heritage of the first peoples that inhabited this land run long and deep. Ancestral homelands from Maine to Hawaii, Alaska to Puerto Rico, maintain cultural identity. Many intersect closely with national parks due to geography, history, and culture. The National Park Service is committed to working with American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians to preserve native cultural heritage and celebrate tribal cultures.”
American Indian Records at the National Archives – A subsection of the National Archives dedicated to Native American history and resources.
American Indian Records and Resources – The Oklahoma Historical Society provides access to many Native American records, including the Dawes Rolls and records pertaining to the American Indian Removal Act.
Ancestry.com Library Edition – The Library edition of Ancestry includes many resources for Native American genealogy, including a guide to getting started, which may be found here. However, in order to use the Library edition, you must be at one of the libraries within the Sevier County Public Library System.
Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums – “ATALM is an international non-profit organization that maintains a network of support for indigenous programs, provides culturally relevant programming and services, encourages collaboration among tribal and non-tribal cultural institutions, and articulates contemporary issues related to developing and sustaining the cultural sovereignty of Native Nations.”
Bureau of Indian Affairs / US Department of the Interior – “This page will help you trace your American Indian or Alaska Native ancestry and provide you with information about tribal services, tribal contacts, and genealogical research. Some frequently asked and common ancestral search questions will also be answered within this page.”
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma – The official website of the Cherokee in Oklahoma.
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada – This Canadian government resource provides information on the various First Nations, their treaties, communities, lands, as well as the Indian Residential Schools. Many of the native tribes and nations in the US have links to these First Nations.
Cyndi’s List: Native Americans – A comprehensive list of Native American genealogy resources and websites.
Eastern Band of Cherokee – The official website for the Eastern Band of Cherokee, headquartered in Cherokee, North Carolina.
Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian – A project of Northwestern University: “Edward Sheriff Curtis published The North American Indian between 1907 and 1930 with the intent to record traditional Native American cultures. The work comprises twenty volumes of narrative text and photogravure images. Each volume is accompanied by a portfolio of large photogravure plates.”
FamilySearch – This free genealogy resource operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints includes Native American resources. They also have a research guide available here.
Indian Removal Act: Library of Congress – The Library of Congress’s guide to the Indian Removal Act includes digital versions of the original documents and records.
Museum of the Cherokee Indian – Located in Cherokee, North Carolina, this museum includes digital collections, an archives, as well as a genealogy department.
National Indian Child Welfare Association’s Research Guide – NICWA has provided an excellent beginning guide to starting your native genealogical research. It provides information on the challenges you may face as well as resources on finding information.
National Indian Law Library – “The National Indian Law Library (NILL) is a law library devoted to American Indian law. It serves both the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the public. NILL serves the public by developing and making accessible a unique and valuable collection of Indian law resources and by providing direct research assistance and delivery of information.”
National Museum of the American Indian – “A diverse and multifaceted cultural and educational enterprise, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is an active and visible component of the Smithsonian Institution. The NMAI cares for one of the world’s most expansive collections of Native artifacts, including objects, photographs, archives, and media covering the entire Western Hemisphere.”
National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition – Besides education and advocacy, this foundation provides archival resources and academic research on the federally-funded boarding schools that saw thousands of native children forcibly taken from their families and abused in these institutions in order to “kill the Indian and save the man.” It also includes the oral histories of survivors.
Native American Research (Cherokee) at the Tennessee State Library and Archives – A research guide provided by the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA); it includes resources available through TSLA as well as some important links to websites.
Native Americans: Resources in Local History and Genealogy at the Library of Congress – The Library of Congress’s holdings include the Rolls, print and digital collections, databases, and links to external resources.
Native Land Digital – “We strive to map Indigenous lands in a way that changes, challenges, and improves the way people see the history of their countries and peoples.” (From website)
Native Languages of the Americas – A website dedicated to the preservation of the Native American languages. The website has not been updated since 2020, but the information provided is accurate and useful.
NativeWeb – Although the website is currently being redesigned, many resources are still available for viewing. It provides information on general Native American resources as well as more particularly resources by tribe or nation, including the Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chickamauga, Chickasaw, Creek, Oglala, Oneida and more.
South Dakota Oral History Center – The South Dakota Oral History Center collects and preserves voices of the people of the Northern Plains through a collection of more than 5500 interviews.