Can DNA Testing Prove Native American Roots for Admission Purposes?

Question: My childrens’ great grandmother was half Cherokee. The records in the courthouse were burned. Will colleges accept a DNA test as proof of race?

When college admission officials give admission priority to Native Americans, they are typically seeking those applicants who will help to diversify the student body. They don’t care about DNA tests. They are interested in cultural connections that will enrich the campus community. Thus, if your children have a relationship with their Native American heritage, they can explain this in their applications, even if no documentation is available.

Some colleges will also ask for a “Tribal Enrollment Number.” If your children don’t have one and you are interested in finding out how you might obtain one, you can research this on the Internet. But because your family records were burned, you may have difficulty accessing information that you will need for Cherokee enrollment specifically. See http://www.allthingscherokee.com/faq_joining.html for more information on confirming Cherokee roots.

Some tribes do use DNA testing to help determine eligibility for enrollment. See http://www.dnatribes.com/dnatribes-facts-about-dna-testing-and-enrollment.pdf But this can be time-consuming, costly, and not always effective. So, before you pursue this avenue, keep in mind that most college admission officials are more concerned with an applicant’s cultural ties to his or her Native American background than they are with the biological ties.

(posted 9/4/2011)