Waco library teaches citizens how to find their Native American heritage

Hannah Kubacak shows members of the genealogy society how to look at and decipher Native American rolls. Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Journalist

By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer

“Looking for the dead, annoying the living.”

This is the slogan that the Central Texas Genealogical Society had on their T-shirts as they welcomed guests into Monday’s brown bag lunch discussion titled “Discover your Native American ancestry.”

In celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day, this presentation walked attendees through the process of tracing their ancestry back to find ancestors who were part of one of the 567 federally recognized Native American tribes. The presentation focused on the five civilized tribes: The Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminoles, Chickasaw and Muscogee-Creek.

At the beginning, speaker Hannah Kubacak debunked several myths surrounding Native American ancestry. She emphasized that Native Americans do not go to college for free and that you can’t just assume an ancestor was a Native American based on a person’s physical characteristics.

Kubacak walked audience members through six steps: Do your genealogy, determine possible tribal affiliation, understand requirements for tribal enrollment, find your ancestors on the required documents, apply for a CDIB (Certified Degree of Indian Blood) card and keep researching.

Many audience members were intrigued by the idea that the Native Americans owned slaves, who were listed in their roles (tribal roles were created throughout history to enumerate Native Americans of different tribes). Kubacak said Native Americans often owned slaves because it was so common in the South. These former slaves would not be eligible for tribal citizenship because they have a different heritage.

“The five civilized tribes, they lived in the South, they owned land in the South, they owned slaves like other people in the South,” Kubacak said “They were also big on trade, so they were also among people who were trading slaves. So then when they moved to Indian territory, those people went with them. All of those people were also removed, which means that when after the Civil War all of those people became freedmen, and they started to receive tribal annuities just like the Native Americans did.”

Attendees were also curious about the benefits of being of Native American heritage. Kubacak explained that each tribe has different benefits.

“Some tribes, I think it’s the Spokane tribe, when you turn 18 you get a check and that’s the last you hear from the tribe unless you work for the tribe,” Kubacak said. “For most of the tribes, they have different benefits. Some of them you have to live in that area to receive, some of them you can apply for separately. So they have things like scholarships, Chickasaw Nation has a hospital you can go to if you’re Native American, not just that tribe but any tribe. They have things like different incentives fro kids growing up. If they get good grades they get sent different things like books and iPads, random stuff, so it really depends on the tribe though, because not all tribes have the ability.”

Citizens who attended said they felt better informed about how to go about searching for their Native American ancestors.

“My daughter is adopted, we adopted her when she was a baby,” Waco resident Donna Moore said. “But she did her DNA and found that she’s 29 percent Native American, so I’m helping her trace her birth lineage to figure out where that came from.”

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