Dawes Roll

by Leuwanna "Laughing Water" Williams

Leuwanna works closely with an LDS Church Family History Center as a consultant in Native American genealogical research.

An act of Congress dated March 3, 1893 provided for a commission to negotiate with the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw and Seminole Nations of Oklahoma in order to dissolve their tribal governments and to allot their land to individual citizens. Allotment was advocated as a means of further civilizing Indians by converting them from a communal land system to a system of individual ownership.

All of the excess land was then available for homesteading by non-Indians. The proceeds from the sale of land and other tribal funds were often held in trust by the Secretary of War, later by the Secretary of Interior and commonly were invested in federal and state bonds and other securities. Records are available concerning the purchase and sale of securities and the status of trust funds during this time period. These records are found in the Financial Division of the Indian Records.

Congress passed the Curtis Act in June, 1898 which provided that a new roll would supersede all previous rolls.

Citizens of the Tribes were enrolled under the following categories:

  • Blood
  • Marriage
  • Minors (born during the enrollment)
  • Freedmen (former slaves)
  • Delawares (adopted into the Cherokee Nation)

Some of the requirements for final enrollment were:

  1. The establishment of legal residence in the Nations of Oklahoma during the enrollment period of 1899-1906
  2. Applicants for final enrollment could not have died prior to 1 Sept. 1902; or, in the case of minor children, could not have been born after 4 March 1906, and could not have died prior to that date
  3. The Rolls of Freedmen (former slaves owned by the Nations prior to the Civil War) were limited to those persons and their descendants who were actual residents of one of the Nations on 11 August 1866, or who returned and established such residence on or before 11 Feb 1867

By the final enrollment day 4 March 1907, 101,211 individuals were certified to share in the properties of the Five Civilized Tribes.

The final number of individuals certified as Cherokee citizens were:

Full Bloods: 6,601
Part Blood: 29,975 (included 197 Delawares)
Intermarried: 286 (granted to whites married prior to 1877)
Freedmen: 4,923
Total: 41,785

To begin your research:

  1. You need to know in which Nation your ancestor lived. If they were of mixed blood, for example, such as Choctaw/Cherokee, they may have been living in the Choctaw Nation. You would look under the Choctaw section of the Dawes Roll
  2. If you are looking for a female ancestor and are not certain about a marriage date, be sure to check under the maiden name and the married name
  3. Remember:
    • The federal government relied on earlier rolls to determine eligibility
    • Not all American Indians wanted to be registered. There may be a discrepancy regarding your ancestor's quantum blood as listed on the Dawes Roll. Minor children and restricted Indians (those of more than one-half degree quantum blood) had their personal and financial affairs controlled by the government agents. In order to avoid these controls, many Indians reported their quantum blood to be less than it was
    • Not all Cherokees were in the right time or place to be included in earlier rolls

In the future: How to use the Dawes Roll

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