FAQs: Blood Quantum and Ancestry

What is blood quantum?

Blood quantum is the amount of Indian blood you possess as determined by the number of generations of Native people you descend from, and it’s the process that the federal government uses to say whether they consider you a Native American or not. Between approximately 1885-1940, census rolls, the 1900 special Indian census, the Dawes Rolls, Durrant Rolls, and land conveyances involving Native people were taken. Based on that information, if any of your ancestors were on those rolls, you may be able to receive a Certificate of Indian Blood (see below). For example, if your great-grandmother was 100% Indian and your great-grandfather was non-Indian, their child (your grandmother or grandfather) would be ½ Indian blood. If your 1/2 Indian grandparent married a non-Indian, your mother or father would be 1/4 Indian blood. If your mother or father married a non-Indian, then you would be 1/8. Of course, the percentages change if there were marriages between Native people and your blood quantum or Indian blood would be more. As you can see from the above explanation, the bottom number gets larger as your blood quantum decreases, therefore it is essential that if you are applying for any services, you figure the blood quantum correctly.

How do I get a Certificate of Indian Blood (CIB)?

A CIB can often be obtained from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) regional or area office that covers the area where your tribe is located. Send your birth certificate, your Indian parents’ birth certificate and if available, your Indian grandparents’ birth certificate (otherwise their name and approximate birth date), to the Regional or Area BIA office where your tribe or ancestors are from. If your ancestors were on any of the old census rolls, they might be able to provide you with the name of the tribe(s) you are from and the percentage(s) of Indian blood. This doesn’t always work, but it’s the easiest and fastest way to prove your Native ancestry. You may need to genealogical research prior to this step. See the information under the “Researching Your Ancestry”under the tab to the right for ideas of where to look for information..

Can blood tests be used to determine ancestry?

Blood tests can be performed to determine if a person is of Native descent. This test, which can be ordered by your doctor, shows markers on the DNA which are characteristic of people of Native ancestry. To the best of our knowledge, this test does not necessarily indicate what tribe you are from or quantity of Indian blood.

Can blood tests be used as documentation for scholarships?

Blood tests can be performed to determine Indian descent. This does not necessarily indicate what tribe(s) you are from or blood quantum. Therefore, this documentation is not sufficient for AAIA’s scholarship eligibility.

What financial aid is available for American Indian and Alaskan Native students?

The AAIA has eight scholarship programs available to Native American and Alaska Native students (See ourScholarship pages for further information). Although the number of sources of financial aid available to American Indians and Alaska Natives are too numerous to list, there are several links to other Native organizations, search engines and other scholarship opportunities listed under the Additional Financial Aidbutton on the bottom our main scholarship page. You may also want to do an internet search for Native Americans Scholarships or Minority Scholarships as well as scholarships in your curriculum. Also look to local civic groups, churches, businesses in your field that may be wiling to do a work payback program, your state and your other ancestry if you’re not 100% Native. Public and university libraries may have books that list grant and scholarship information that are not listed on the internet and many universities have centers for continuing education that may be helpful.

Who can I contact regarding health services for American Indians and Alaska Natives?

Office of Minority Health Resource Center
P.O. Box 37337
Washington, DC 20013-7337
Indian Health Services (HQ)
US Department of Health & Human Services
Administration for Native Americans
330 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20201.
(202) 690-7776
Indian Health Services (HQ)
The Reyes Building
801 Thompson Avenue, Suite 400
Rockville, MD 20852-1627

American Indian and Alaska Native Programs
at the Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH)
American Indian and Alaska Native Programs
Mail Stop F800
Nighthorse Campbell Native Health Building
13055 E. 17th Avenue
Aurora, CO 80045
Phone: 303.724.1414

Center for American Indian Health
The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
615 N. Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21205

Where can I find information regarding the adoption of an American Indian child and related materials?

You have rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act to access information that will help you establish your relationship with your tribe. However, there are variations in how state courts grant this access. Section 1917 of the Indian Child Welfare Act provides that:

“Upon application by an Indian individual who has reached the age of 18 and who was the subject an adoptive placement, the court which entered the final decree shall inform such individual of the tribal affiliation, if any, of the individual’s biological parents and provide such other information as may be necessary to protect any rights flowing from the individuals tribal relationship.”

The way this generally works is that the adult adoptee must petition the court which approved the adoption (usually a court located where they were born or where their adoptive parents resided at the time) to release information that can help the adoptee establish his or her relationship with their tribe. Sometimes the court will release a copy of the original birth certificate to the adoptee and let that person follow up with the tribe. Other courts have refused to release any information about the adoptee’s biological family to the adoptee. Instead, they have released this information only to the tribe(s) that the child may be eligible for membership or to a third party intermediary. Where a state places a great emphasis upon the confidentiality of adoption records, judges may sometimes be reluctant to release any identifying information. Thus, if possible, it is best for adoptees (if they can afford it) to get an attorney who has experience in this area to file the petition, represent them in a hearing and argue relevant case law which is often required to persuade the court to release this information. Some cases on this issue include:

  • E.A. v. State, 623 P.2d 1210 (AK 1981)
  • Matter of Hanson, 470 N.W.2d 669 (Mich.App. 1991)
  • Matter of the Adoption of Mellinger, 672 A.2d 197 (N.J.Super.A.D. 1996)

For additional information contact the:

National Indian Child Welfare Association, Inc.
3611 SW Hood Street, Suite 201
Portland, OR 97201


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