For the first time in nearly 30 years, Michigan’s largest federally recognized Tribe is opening its membership to adults.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians approved a resolution at its Aug. 1 meeting to open the Tribe’s membership rolls beginning Feb. 1, 2024. Enrollment will remain open until the board passes a subsequent resolution to close them.

The Tribe reports a membership of around 40,000 members around the world, with the tribe headquarters located in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. The Tribe’s membership has been to all adults since 1998 but was opened briefly in 2005. 

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“There are many people who are proud of their Native heritage and ancestry who have been unable to enroll as Sault Tribe members,” Sault Tribe Chairman Austin Lowes said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming them into our community and growing our membership.”

According to a statement issued on the Tribe’s website, individuals haven’t been able to enroll in membership for many reasons, such as adoption or unrecognized paternity. As well, the Tribe receives frequent requests from descendants of eligible individuals who never enrolled.

In 2011, the Tribe amended its membership ordinance to include those unable to trace ancestry due to sealed child custody records, unrecognized paternity, or out-of-home placements. In 2014, it was again amended to allow tribal members’ biological children under the age of 21 to apply for membership.

An application for membership will be available in the coming weeks on the Tribe’s website. 

Applicants will be required to submit copies of documents of their direct lineal descendants until they reach the descendant who is listed on one of the base rolls used to determine membership.

An enrolled relative can sign a release form to allow the applicant access to the documentation in the relative’s file to complete the applicant’s application. 

An application fee of $25 applies. Processing applications are expected to take 6-8 weeks or longer, pending the number of applications received. 

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