Aggregated News

The onset of casino gaming brought great change in Indian country, but it also created unexpected­—and frequently heated—arguments over Indian identity: What makes somebody a member of a tribe, and how it is measured?

Traditional metrics include tracing lineage from flawed base-membership rolls and the sometimes-complicated math of blood quantum. Over the past decade, some tribes have turned to DNA testing to make sure tribal members, and potential enrollees, are who they say they are—at least when it comes to parentage.

This trend has come to just a small number of tribes, perhaps 40 or 50 out of the 265 with gaming, one consultant on tribal government estimates, and just a sliver of the Indian nations overall. But the joined issues of Indian identity and the sharing of lucrative casino profits have had an outsized impact. Through DNA tests or other methods, thousands of Indian people have found themselves disenrolled in recent years for failing to meet tribal criteria.

In August, the Cherokee Nation appears to have won a long and bitter fight to disenroll nearly 3,000 freedmen, the descendants...