Dawes Rolls


Officially known as The Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory, the Dawes Rolls list individuals who chose to enroll and were approved for membership in the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole.) It does not include those whose applications were stricken, rejected, or judged as doubtful by the Dawes Commission. Those found eligible for the Final Rolls were entitled to an allotment of land, usually as a homestead. The Rolls contain more than 101,000 names from 1898-1914 (primarily from 1899-1906), and list the individual's name, age, sex, blood degree, census card number and page, enrollment number, and tribe. Today these five tribes continue to use the Dawes Rolls as the basis for determining tribal membership, as they usually require applicants to provide proof of descent from a person who is listed on these rolls.

Dawes Act (1887)


Hon. Henry L. Dawes, Mass, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865, ARC Identifier 527181
Hon. Henry L. Dawes, Mass, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865, ARC Identifier 527181
[1]

Various Indian rights groups, primarily from the Northeastern states, wished to see Native Americans assimilated into the mainstream of American society. In December 1883, for example, the Women's Auxiliary Indian Association of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania presented a petition with 873 names "praying for, the abolition of the reservation system, of citizenship, and equal rights for all Indians."[2] Many reformers believed their goal of citizenship for the Indian could be achieved by passage of the Dawes Act, which provided for allotments of land to heads of households, unmarried adults, and orphans, and granted citizenship to each Indian whose allotment was approved and patented. Many petitions received by the Government during the 1880s supported the Dawes Act. Among the petitioners were Westerners who envisioned tracts of surplus reservation land being freed for white settlement.

Approved on February 8, 1887, "An Act to Provide for the Allotment of Lands in Severalty to Indians on the Various Reservations," known as the Dawes Act after its author, Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts, was an important part of a larger federal Indian policy that emphasized severalty, or the treatment of Native Americans as individuals rather than as members of tribes. Also known as the General Allotment Act, the law allowed for the President to extinguish tribal title to land and break up reservations, which were held in common by the members of a tribe, into small allotments to be parceled out to individuals. Thus, Native Americans registering on a tribal "roll" were granted allotments of reservation land.

Section 8 of the Dawes Act initially exempted the Five Civilized Tribes from the law: "the provisions of this act shall not extend to the territory occupied by the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Seminoles, and Osage, Miamies and Peorias, and Sacs and Foxes, in the Indian Territory, nor to any of the reservations of the Seneca Nation of New York Indians in the State of New York, nor to that strip of territory in the State of Nebraska adjoining the Sioux Nation on the south."[3]

Shortly after the passage of the Dawes Act, one writer proudly proclaimed: "Over 16,000 Indians have now become citizens of the United States; and more than 4,000 others, through application for land in severalty, have declared their intentions to become citizens."[4] As individual Indians applied for their allotments, the tribes were to be financially compensated by the Government for the loss of "surplus" reservation land that could then be opened to white settlement. By the turn of the twentieth century, many persons in the white community thought it was "of the highest importance that the allotment of lands be completed at the earliest possible moment"[5] so land could be available for white settlement as quickly as possible.

Dawes Commission, 1893-1914


In 1893 President Grover Cleveland appointed the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, commonly called the Dawes Commission, to negotiate land with the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes. The Commission was chaired by Senator Dawes and its mission, according to the Secretary of the Interior, was "the total abolition of the tribal autonomy of the Five Civilized Tribes and the wiping out of the quasi-independent governments within our territorial limits."[6] As a result of these negotiations, several acts were passed that allotted a share of common property to members of the Five Civilized Tribes in exchange for abolishing their tribal governments and recognizing state and Federal laws. In order to receive the allotted land, members were to enroll with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Once enrolled, the individual's name went on the "Dawes Rolls." This process assisted the BIA and the Secretary of the Interior in determining the eligibility of individual members for land distribution.

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Index to the Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory, 03/04/1907, ARC Identifier 300320, Item from Record Group 75: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1793 - 1999
[7]
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The Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory, 03/04/1907, ARC Identifier 300321, Item from Record Group 75: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1793 - 1999
[8]


Researching the Dawes Rolls


See the Tutorial: Using the Dawes Rolls Online on the National Archives' website for a step by step guide to researching the Dawes Rolls.

If you find your ancestor' s name, their Dawes Roll number is the key to various other records. Unlike most other "roll numbers," it was used by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a means of positive identification (thus it is something like a social security number).

The Rolls contain more than 101,000 names from 1898-1914 (primarily from 1899-1906). They are arranged by tribe and thereunder by category (i.e. Cherokee by Blood, Cherokee Minor, Cherokee Freedmen, etc.). The entries for each enrollment category are arranged alphabetically by surname. The Dawes Rolls only include people who were alive during the 1898-1907 enrollment period. In most cases the ages indicated on the rolls are the age of individuals around 1902. Those listed as "newborns" and "minors" were born after the initial enrollment began in 1898, but before March of 1907. Tribal association will be listed as "By Blood," "Intermarriage," or "Freedmen." Intermarriage indicates the person was married to a citizen of the tribe. You may also see the letters "I W" for Intermarried White. Freedmen were the former slaves of the Five Civilized Tribes and their descendants.

Index to the Final Rolls of the Citizen and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes

The index to the final rolls is available in the Archival Research Catalog at http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=300320

Final Rolls of the Citizen and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes

The final rolls is available in the Archival Research Catalog at http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=300321

Census Cards

The Dawes Rolls can be searched to discover the enrollee's name, sex, blood degree, and census card number. The cards were prepared by the Dawes Commission to enable the staff to keep track of the status of enrollment applications and the originals were hauled around Indian Territory in wagons as the staff gathered applications and took testimony. The census card may provide additional genealogical information, and may also contain references to earlier rolls, such as the 1880 Cherokee census.

Over 20,000 cards are described in the National Archives' Archival Research Catalog, and some of the 20,000 cards are also available digitally in the catalog. To search the reports, go to NARA’s Archival Research Catalog (ARC) at http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=251747. You may browse the descriptions by clicking the link that reads “20809 items described in ARC”. Or you may search for a particular individual’s file by clicking the “Search within this Series” link and then entering a name in the search box. To request a copy of a card that has not been digitized, contact the National Archives at Fort Worth.

Application Jackets

A census card was generally accompanied by an "application jacket". The jackets sometimes contain valuable supporting documentation, such as transcripts of any testimony taken by the Commission, birth and death affidavits, marriage licenses (sometimes), and correspondence between the Commission and the applicants, their attorneys, and tribal officials. In general, the more controversial the applicant's claim, the thicker the jacket. The jackets for many full-bloods whose claim to membership was not disputed by the tribal government usually contain very little genealogical information.

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Humorist Will Rogers' application to the Dawes Commission in 1900 was accepted, and he was enrolled as a member of the Cherokee Nation. Application for Enrollment in the Five Civilized Tribes, William P. Rogers, Census Card 4747, ARC Identifier 4662501
[9]

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Application for Allotment, William P. Rogers, Enrollment Number 11384, ARC Identifier 4662504
[10]

Land Allotment Files


There is also a land allotment file[11] for each approved enrollment number, but they are not available on microfilm. For copies of these files or for more information about rejected applications contact the National Archives at Fort Worth.


Additional Resources


  1. Index to the Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory, 03/04/1907, ARC Identifier 300320, Item from Record Group 75: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1793 - 1999, http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=300320
  2. The Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory, 03/04/1907, ARC Identifier 300321, Item from Record Group 75: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1793 - 1999, http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=300321
  3. National Archives and Records Administration, Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes (The Dawes Commission), 1893-1914, http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/heritage/native-american/dawes.html
  4. National Archives and Records Administration, Tutorial: Using the Dawes Rolls Online, http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/tutorial/dawes/
  5. Carter, Kent, "Wantabes and Outalucks: Searching for Indian Ancestors in Federal Records," http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/heritage/native-american/ancestor-search.html
  6. OurDocuments.gov, Dawes Act 1887, http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=50
  7. Oklahoma Historical Society, Search the Dawes Final Rolls Index, http://www.okhistory.org/research/dawes/index.php

  1. ^ http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=527181
  2. ^ Guide to the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989 (Record Group 233), Chapter 13. Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs and Its Predecessors, (48A-H10.2), http://www.archives.gov/legislative/guide/house/chapter-13-indian-affairs.html
  3. ^ OurDocuments.gov, Dawes Act 1887, http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=50
  4. ^ Guide to the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989 (Record Group 233), Chapter 13. Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs and Its Predecessors, (51A-F16.2), http://www.archives.gov/legislative/guide/house/chapter-13-indian-affairs.html
  5. ^ Guide to the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989 (Record Group 233), Chapter 13. Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs and Its Predecessors, (57A-F14.2), http://www.archives.gov/legislative/guide/house/chapter-13-indian-affairs.html
  6. ^ Carter, Kent, "Snakes & Scribes: The Dawes Commission and the Enrollment of the Creeks," Prologue Spring 1997, Vol. 29, No. 1, http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1997/spring/dawes-commission-1.html
  7. ^ http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=300320
  8. ^ http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=300321
  9. ^ http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=4662501
  10. ^ http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=4662504
  11. ^ http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=559520