Dawes Commission

I’m back. I had to take some time to devote to work and music but I have some fresh new ideas to write about and share with everyone. I appreciate all the folks who have commented about missing my blog and have encouraged me to get a new piece up.

I left off on my last blog with a court record I found that disputed my ancestors claims to enroll in the 1906 Dawes Final Rolls. Here is a quick background on the rolls for those who aren’t familiar with this part of history: Indians had land, US Government wanted Indian’s land, US took took a head count of Indians, US took land and moved Indians, US gave new land to Indians according to headcount, US took land again. This story doesn’t limit itself to the Oklahoma tribes, it is a systematic removal of native persons from across the country, including native Alaskans and Hawaiians. I know this is a very superficial explanation of removal and contains much greater complexities but that is a for a different post.

In essence, the rolls were a headcount. The headcounts began prior to removal for many tribes. There are many rolls that predate the 1906 Dawes Final Roll of the Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole tribes. Many of the rolls began in the early 19th century and are digitized and indexed for your researching pleasure. The Dawes Roll was the product of the Dawes Commission, which was tasked with enumerating those eligible for “citizenship” in the “Five Civilized Tribes” (I put these in quotations as they are rather strange words with very strange connotation). This new land west of the Mississippi, in “Indian Territory” now present-day Oklahoma, was to be the land allotted to the tribes that had been removed. The system was to divide the land to families, from 40 to 160 acres, depending on the family member.

In order to qualify for this land, a tribal member had to “prove” his affiliation to the tribe (this also was the case for annuities). The proof required any number of qualifications depending on the specific roll. The Dawes Commission required applicants to provide personal and family history information. Acquaintances and neighbors were also interviewed and asked about the applicants and their lives. If the Dawes Commission deemed you “approved” you were enrolled on a card with members of your family or household and issued a number. This Dawes number is now used for descendants of a person who was issued the number to enroll under according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the specific tribe. Did tribal members not get on the roll? Probably. Are the people on the rolls who are not Indian? Probably. Even after a family was issued citizenship did they take that citizenship away? Yes.

I know they did this because they tried to do this to Mary Escoe and her family. In Case #266 filed in United State Court for the Indian Territory for the Northern District at Muskogee (1), the Escoe family won their citizenship back after being stricken from the rolls. A portion of the case is available at Ancestry.com and more records are available at the Oklahoma History Center microfilm collection.

But why were the stricken from the roll. Did they do something wrong?

(1) Ancestry.com. U.S., Citizenship Case Files in Indian Territory, 1896-1897[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Citizenship Case Files of the U.S. Court in Indian Territory, 1896–1897 (microfilm, 12 rolls). Series P2293. Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1793–1999, Record Group 75. [accessed 17 Aug 2015].


One thought on “Dawes Commission

  1. and then…. and then…
    good to meet you again at hop’s concert in okc.
    love your mom and dad – so nice to get to see them every once in a while.


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