Who do I need to contact to find out about college financial aid for Indian students?


Last Updated: 3 years

I want to bring my daughter, (social security number removed) who is 17 years old, to your Cherokee Tribe office to get a photo id and information about what we have to do to get her money for college. Who do I need to call to find out about college financial aid?
–Submitted by Linda H.

You are correct, in that you must contact your tribal office to find out what financial aid may be available for your native american student from that tribe. However, not all tribes automatically have money for college educations of native american or Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian students.

Your milage will vary greatly from tribe to tribe. No US treaty that I am aware of guarantees an Indian child an education beyond high school. This is a common misconception of US treaty rights.

Each Indian tribe has had to develop their own resources for higher education assistance for their tribal members, and some tribes have done a better job at it than others.

Of course, don’t forget your native american student (who is a member of a Federally Recognized Indian tribe) is probably eligible for many minority grants and scholarships that are not funded by Indian tribes or restricted specifically to Indian people.

Just for your information, you should never send your social security number through an email. Email is not a secure connection and can be a security risk to be intercepted by hackers on the Internet, who might possibly use it to perpetuate an identity theft crime.

Also, we aren’t the Cherokee Tribe website, but we would be happy to give you some additional information and ideas of where to start your search for college funding.

Finally, there are more than one official Cherokee tribes. For enrollment, you would need to contact the branch of the cherokee tribe that you think your daughter would be descended from and produce documentation of her lineage back to an enrolled tribal member that is a direct line blood relative.

That means if a parent or grandparent is not already an enrolled member, a great grandparent would have to be on one of the Cherokee rolls. You will need ORIGINALS (not copies) of certificates of birth, death, and marriage records back to that ancestor, I believe, to prove lineage.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians website is at https://www.cherokee-nc.com. For enrollment, a direct lineal ancestor must appear on the 1924 Baker Roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

If your Cherokee ancestor came from around Tennessee, Georgia, Eastern Alabama or South Carolina, this is probably the Cherokee roll you need to search. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians general toll free telephone number is 800-438-1601.

The Cherokee Tribe of Oklahoma website is at https://www.cherokee.org. To enroll in the Cherokee tribe, you must first get your CDIB card from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has their own application process.

Then once you have that, you can apply for a Blue Card, which is what your enrollment card for the Cherokee Tribe of Oklahoma is commonly called. Descendents of this tribe will be in the the Guion Miller and Dawes/Freedman rolls. The Cherokee Tribe of Oklahoma general toll free telephone number is 800-256-0671.

General Eligibility Requirements for Native American and First Nations Financial Aid for College

For a student to be eligible for many US Native American scholarships, such as BIA scholarships, the student should be an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe. Otherwise funding will most likely be denied.

A Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) card or document issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs is generally accepted proof of membership in a federally recognized tribe.

US Bureau of Indian Affairs

Students who are more than 1/4 Indian blood should be eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) scholarships. BIA/OIEP funds may only be awarded to a person who is a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe.

Native American students must apply for a BIA/OIEP Indian Education Grant through their tribe, home agency, or area office of Indian Education. Check with your local BIA office for applications, eligibility and deadlines. The phone number for the California, Arizona, and Nevada BIA office is 1-702-887-3515.

The school’s financial aid administrator must send a needs assessment to the director of the Higher Education program of the tribe, so the students have to file the FAFSA. Based on this need analysis, the student may be awarded “Higher Ed” grants. Awards typically range from $500 to $4,000 per year.

BIA/OIEP funds 26 institutions, including two it operates directly, Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, and Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The other 24 institutions are tribally-controlled community colleges represented by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium of Alexandria, Virginia.

BIA/OIEP also provides funding to students through a contract with the American Indian Graduate Center in Albuquerque. All fields of study are given consideration with priority to Business, Engineering, Health, Law and Natural Resources.

For general information about the Indian Higher Education Grants for undergraduate and graduate students, call 1-202-208-4871, 1-505-881-4584, or 1-202-208-7163, fax 1-202-208-6334, or write to US Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Education, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20240-0001.

The phone number for the BIA Office of Public Affairs is 1-202-219-3711 and their fax number is 1-202-501-1516. The Bureau of Indian Affairs can also be reached at 1-800-332-9186.

See also the BIA Educational Native American Network (ENAN) (or the Univ. of Kansas description of ENAN) and BIA Office of Indian Education Programs (OIEP), especially the Branch of Postsecondary Education.

Tribal Offices

Another good source of financial aid is the student’s tribe. Some tribes have scholarships for their members, although the awards are usually for very small amounts.

Very often if a student does not qualify for a BIA/OIEP grant, the tribe will award a “tribal” scholarship. Each tribe handles its own funding differently, with different award amounts and deadlines, so it is best to contact the tribe directly.

Indian Health Service (IHS)

The IHS web site provides information about the IHS Scholarship Program and the IHS Loan Repayment Program. The IHSSP Indian Health Service Scholarship provides full tuition and fees, books, uniforms, equipment, travel, insurance, national board exams, travel for clinical training, and a stipend for students majoring in health professions, engineering, and accounting.

The deadline is usually March 31. For more information, call 1-301-443-6197, fax 1-301-443-6048, (call 1-301-443-3396 or fax 1-301-443-4815 for the loan program), or write to Indian Health Service, Scholarship Program, Twinbrook Metro Plaza, Suite 100, 12300 Twinbrook Parkway, Rockville, MD 20852.

Colleges and Universities

Many schools offer free tuition, room and board to Native American students, especially full-blooded Native American students. Be sure to ask each school you are considering what incentives they offer to encourage Native American students to enroll. There may also be special awards for students minoring in Native American studies.

For example, Native American students who attend any state school in Montana will qualify for a fee waiver if they are Montana residents, at least 1/4 Indian blood quantum, and have financial need. The fee waiver includes tuition and a $30 administrative fee, but not approximately $235 in other fees.

Daughters of the American Revolution American Indian Scholarship Fund

The Daughters of the American Revolution American Indian Scholarship Fund typically awards $500 scholarships to Native American students all across the country. Deadlines are August 1 for the fall and November 1 for the spring. For more information, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Ms. Mary Barnett, Rt. 3, Box 530, Cynthiana, KY 41031.

Where to check for Canadian Student Eligibility:

Native American students with at least 50% Indian blood who were born in Canada are eligible for Title IV federal student aid under the jurisdiction of the Jay Treaty of 1794, subsequent treaties, and US Immigration Law. They are not required to obtain documentation from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

Because of the limited number of Title IV aid applicants who are eligible under the Jay Treaty, the citizenship question on the FAFSA (question #15-16) does not have a separate response for such students. Such students should report on the FAFSA that they are “eligible non-citizens” and leave the question about the Alien Registration Number blank. They will then be required to provide the financial aid administrator at the school they attend with proof that they have 50% Native American blood and were born in Canada.

This can be demonstrated by any of several documents:

    • A “band card” issued by the Band Council of a Canadian Reserve, or by the Department of Indian Affairs in Ottawa.
    • Birth or baptism records.


    • An affidavit from a tribal official or other person knowledgeable about the applicant’s or recipient’s family history.
  • Identification from a recognized Native America provincial or territorial organization.

Related links on this site:
Northern Araphaho Scholarships

The Hopi Tribal Grants and Scholarships Program

What kind of benefits do members of an Indian tribe get from the Federal Government?

External links:

FastWEB scholarship search

In addition to the resources listed below, the FastWEB scholarship search lists 70 active award sources for Native American students only, 11 award sources for Native American or Native Alaskan students, and hundreds of awards for minority students.

American Indian College Fund

The American Indian College Fund provides scholarships and other support for the nation’s 32 tribal colleges and universities. The AICF disburses approximately 5,000 scholarships annually for American Indian students. For more information, call 1-800-776-FUND or 1-303-892-8312, fax 1-303-572-0650, or write to American Indian College Fund, 1111 Osage Street, Building D, Suite 205A, Denver, CO 80204 (or American Indian College Fund, Dept PN, 21 West 68th Street, New York, NY 10023), or send email to aicf@aol.com.

New Mexico State University (IRD)

New Mexico State University’s Indian Resource Development page has a long list of scholarship resources for native american students. IRD also administers a USDA Agricultural Statistics scholarship for Native American students majoring in agriculture, mathematics, computer science, or statistics. For more information, call 1-505-646-1347, fax 1-505-646-7740, write to Indian Resource Development, Box 30001, Department 3IRD, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003, or send email to ird@nmsu.edu.

Nationa Academies Fellowships

The Fellowship Office of Policy and Global Affairs administers predoctoral, dissertation, and postdoctoral fellowship programs in research-based fields of study. Not just for native american students.


Has search capability to other Financial Aid Information, not limited to native americans.


A long list of links to college admission tips, financial aid, and related topics. Not just for native americans.