Friday, August 27, 2010

The Dawes Act: How Would You Feel?

Land of Dreams: Homesteading America, the interpretive film shown daily at the Heritage Center at Homestead National Monument of America mentions the Dawes Act several times. “Land Rushes” an article posted on the Homestead Congress Blog on April 12, 2008 also mentions the Dawes Act.

1. Just what was the Dawes Act?

2. What was its purpose?

3. What was Congress trying to do?

4. How would you feel about the Dawes Act if you were a Native American?

Below is a simple explanation of the Dawes Act, but the questions above are not answered. Please post a response and give your answers to question number 4.

The Dawes Act enacted on February 8, 1887 authorized the President of the United States to have Native American tribal lands, which was held in common by the members of a tribe, surveyed and broken into small allotments to be parceled out to individuals. Each head of a family received a quarter of a section [160 acres]. Each single person over 18 years of age received an eighth of a section [80 acres]. Each orphan under 18 also received an eighth of a section. After 25 years, individual Native American land owners could sell their land if they so desired. The land beyond what was needed for individual allotments was sold to settlers. Through purchase of the “surplus” land and by buying directly from Native Americans [after 25 years had passed] most of the land within modern “Indian Reservations” is actually owned by white ranchers and farmers.

Before the passage of the Dawes Act it was a common U. S. Government practice to move Native America tribes onto reservations and then later moving them again, often to “Indian Territory” [Oklahoma]. The Otoe-Missouri are just one example of this. At the time of Lewis and Clark their village was near the confluence of the Platte and Missouri rivers. In 1854 they were moved to a reservation that was mostly in present day southern Gage County, Nebraska. In 1881 the Otoe-Missouria were moved to “Indian Territory” [Oklahoma]. The land they left was opened up to be purchased by settlers. Eventually the Otoe-Missouri land in Oklahoma was parceled out to individuals under the Dawes Act with the “surplus” being sold to settlers.

Revisit question 4 above and post a response.

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