Many American Indian families have stories of their distant ancestry, with long lost memories of their relation to an Indian princess in their family tree. However this simply is not the case for many of these people, usually they are remnants of somebody else's story or they are just embellishments for children's bedtime stories.

According to this report many people are having difficulties gaining access to information on their Indian heritage, due to the fact that if an Indian heritage can be established it can mean access to college funds and revenue shares.

Of course this is also skewed by the fact that some people try to claim monies they are not rightly owed.

"Betty Gaeng has met dozens of Indian princesses.

Or so they thought.

Most often, she said, those desperately clutching brittle photographs of a distant ancestor have more hope than American Indian lineage.

There's very little information for people who have too little Indian blood to enroll in a tribe, but just enough blood for a family tale to balloon into a legend of native royalty, said Gaeng, a research volunteer at the Sno-Isle Genealogical Society in Lynnwood.

"We get so many of those," Gaeng said.

All family trees have mystery in their branches, but few more so than those of people with a small amount of Indian blood in their veins.

That's what Gaeng and other volunteers at the genealogical society discovered last year, when they tried to purchase books on Coast Salish history and genealogies with a $2,000 grant from the Tulalip Tribes.

"We found nothing," said Carol Thul, the society's librarian.

That discovery was unthinkable to Gaeng, Thul and other society members, who have been known to travel around the country to rummage through dusty boxes stuffed with yellowed notes on who was born and when, who died and where.

"Every person, regardless of ethnicity, should have access to this information," society member Teresa Verhey said.

Using decades of genealogical expertise, the group is working to develop a searchable database to be used by people who believe they may have Indian blood. Gaeng, Thul and others are collecting information about tribal members and their descendents that is of public record but difficult for the average person to track down and interpret.

"These are public records, but it's hard for an ordinary person to figure out what they mean," said Gaeng, secretary for the society. "There's a certain method for extracting that information."

Faulty information has led countless people to believe they have Indian blood or are even descended from Indian chiefs, said Kathleen Hinckley, executive director of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Colorado.

"It's a common ancestral story in families that they descend from an Indian princess," she said. "Some stories may be true, but it's the task of the genealogist to filter out fact from fiction, especially when oral history is involved."

Tracing Indian genealogies are more difficult than others because much of the pertinent information is closely guarded by tribal governments, Hinckley said.

Proof of Indian blood, especially if it leads to membership in an Indian tribe, can mean a potential windfall through casino revenues, college scholarships and other benefits."



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