Sunday, October 10, 2010

Scholarships and Grants--The Truth for Native Americans

One of the great free money myths floating around the U.S. involves the loads of money supposedly waiting for anyone who can prove that they are at least partly descended from Native Americans.  Patrons have toddled into my library, happily anticipating the big buckets of money that await them because grandma was a full-blooded Cherokee.  As anyone who reads this blog knows, the truth is more complicated. 

First, the feds do not guarantee a check to everyone who is a Native American.  As explained in this Bureau of Indian Affairs publication, those checks went to members of tribes who had won judgements against the federal government.  Many of those settlements have already been paid out, and do not last into perpetuity.  There are some tribes who have financially prospered because of natural resources, investments, or businesses (like casinos), and their enrolled members do in fact get some share of the profits when they arise.  But you have to be an enrolled member in order to get those benefits.  You must also be an enrolled member of a "federally recognized" tribe, or a descendent of an "enrolled member," in order to get some of the benefits available to Native Americans from the BIA.

You don't deal with the BIA for this.  First, you must do some genealogical research to establish your Native American roots.  There are over 560 tribes recognized by the federal government, and each of them has their own recordkeeping, and to be eligible for those benefits, you must establish your ancestry with at least one of them.  Here's the link for contacting each tribe and getting to their website to find out how to establish your status within the tribe (the link in the BIA document above is dead). You have to trace your own family tree, and find the member and establish their enrolled status in the tribe.  A good tool in helping is the Rootsweb Native American Data Page.  Also, check your local library to see if they subscribe to such paid services as or Heritage Quest. 

And if you are descended from a federally recognized tribe?  There are some pages with sources of aid for Native Americans in business and economic development, loan guarantees, and scholarships and Indian colleges.  There are some other scholarship sources, too.  You can also buy or check your local library for the book Financial Aid for Native Americans.

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