Thursday, November 19, 2009

Native American Heritage Month

This month is Native American Heritage Month. Many of us have heard family stories about possibly having Native American blood in our lines. Several people I know claim their families connect to Pocahontas. But proving these lines can be difficult. We have a picture of a Native American in one of our family photo albums and have not been able to figure out who he is. It is a mystery to us.

In my regular life I work for the US Department of Interior. We have observances of all these cultural heritage months. As part of the month, we receive e-mails with trivia and questions to test our knowledge. Today I received the following in my e-mail:

Did you know…………………………….Many Native American names are created specifically for the bearer or to describe various stages of the bearer's life? For this reason, there are very few common Native American names. For example, names such as Woo-ka-nay (“arched nose”), which was the real name of the Cheyenne warrior Roman Nose, or Wa Tha Huck, the original name of legendary Indian athlete Jim Thorpe (which means “bright path”).

In some tribes, the use of names is highly restrictive. Certain names can only be used by specific families within the tribe, and can only be transferred by loan or gift. Using a name of this sort without first receiving permission could be considered an enormous faux pas or even theft. At a minimum, it's an affront to a specific culture and race.

For some Native American tribes, personal names are kept very private, sometimes even secret, and reserved for use only among other members of the same tribe. When members of one of these tribes are with people not of their own group, they'll often use “public” names instead of their true given names. Traditions vary widely among tribes. What may be an acceptable borrowing of a name to some tribes may be unthinkable to others.

If you are interested in how Native American Heritage Month was started and what it means, I suggest you visit Another interesting site is the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian which is found at

So, how do you go about researching Native American records? This can be a problem for some researchers. I will try to list a few websites that can help in this research. Some of these will be free while others have subscriptions.

Footnote is a subscription site but they offer many free records and are completely free if you visit your local Family History Center. This month they have over 1.5 million Native American records available for viewing. These records include Ratified Indian Treaties (1722-1869), Indian Census Rolls (1885-1940), Dawes Enrollment Cards (1898-1914), Eastern Cherokee Applications (1906-1909), Guion Miller Roll (1908-1910) and Cherokee Indian Agency (1801-1835). They also have several tribal histories documented on individual tribe pages. Civil War and WW II Indian Regiments are also highlighted along with their document. These are all great records to search as you look into your Native roots. To view the records go to this link:

Another useful site is Access Genealogy at This site has indexes of many Native American Rolls, such as the Armstrong, Baker, Cooper, Dawes, Guion, Reservation, Ute and Wallace Rolls. There are many helpful documents and a discussion of Indian DNA on the site. It also links to images of Indian Census Schedules from Ancestry.

A site that I use frequently in my research is Genealogy Branches. This site provides lists of sites by subject. Their Native American list is found at You will find links to Ancestry as well as state archives, GenNet, and other websites.

Cyndi’s List is well known for its expertise in bringing genealogical websites to a common list. The Native American links can be found at

And finally, I will discuss a new comer to the stage: FamilySearch Wiki. FamilySearch Wiki is a baby in the genealogy world; it was started recently and is still asking for contributors to provide information for their Wiki. There are several pages concerning Native Americans but they can always use your help to improve them. I suggest that you start at

I hope this article peaks your interest and sends you looking for more information on those links to Native Americans that you have been told about.

1 comment:

Becky Jamison said...

You got my interest piqued, Miles! I'll print this out so I can refer to your helpful links. Thanks so much!