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Dawes Act and Commission: Topics in Chronicling America

The Dawes Act established land allotment to Native Americans, but it was overcome with conflict. This guide provides access to materials related to the “Dawes Act and Commission” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historical newspapers.

Introduction

"J.A. Sequiche: Full-Blood Cherokee, Interpreter for the Dawes Commission. T.M. Buffington: Principal Chief of the Cherokees and Probably Their Last Chief." March 17, 1901. The St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, MO), Image 49. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

As United States government policy concerning Native Americans shifted away from warfare and towards peaceful assimilation, privatization and land allotment were seen as solutions to the so-called “Indian problem.” Privatization of communal reservation land was considered a way to make Native Americans more “American” by giving them a path to American citizenship through land ownership. The Dawes Act established a system for land allotment and the Dawes Commission negotiated with the "Five Civilized Tribes" - Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee), and Seminole - to cede tribal titles of Indian lands so they could be divided into individually owned lots. The initially-praised policy became riddled with internal government conflict and accusations of corruption. Despite lawsuits filed by Chippewa Nation, the ultimate result of the Dawes Act was that the Five Tribes lost most of their national land bases. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

February 8, 1887 The General Allotment Act (or the Dawes Act) is passed, dividing communal tribal land into lots to be owned by individual Native Americans.
1893 The Dawes Commission is appointed and begins negotiations with the Five Civilized Tribes.
1901 Internal US government conflict arises over who has the ultimate authority in dealing with the Five Tribes.
1903 Dawes Commission is accused of fraud.
1920 Chippewa Nation sues for losses incurred due to the Dawes Act and Commission.