Loren N. Brown, 302 E. Third St., Edmond, Okla.
The relationship between the United States and the Indian tribes within her boundaries has been a changing and developing policy since the inception of our national government in 1789. Throughout all the periods of that development, however, there have been some outstanding characteristics always evident. One of these has been the steady advance of the white settler by definite stages, varying from the advent of the first trapper into the redman's country to the establishment of industries and settled farms on the lands that were formerly his. It is not the aim of this paper to attempt to prove the justice or the injustice of such a policy, but rather to observe the effect of its development upon Oklahoma, especially as it was administered through the hands of one of the agencies created by Congress to speed it along; the Dawes Commission.
The period after the Civil War had seen a reopening of Indian hostilities that had been lulled temporarily with the removal of the tribesmen to new homes beyond the Mississippi River. The release of thousands of fighting men at the close of that gigantic struggle, the completion of new railroads into the far west, the insatiable thirst of the white men for more land, the discovery of priceless minerals in the Rockies which had been thought of as worthless, and innumerable other factors had contributed to a great migration of Americans to the virgin regions west of the Mississippi. This had reopened the old struggle for supremacy between the two races that had been going forward since the coming of the first white men to make the new hemisphere a permanent home. Campaigns against the Sioux, Cheyennes, Comanches, Pawnees, and other tribes were merely incidents in the conflict.
Constantly recurring victories led to new treaties and new laws dealing with the relations between the newly conquered tribes and the United States Senate. The importance of this movement throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century made the Committee on Indian Affairs in
that body a very important assignment. Chairmanship of that important committee in 1885 was held by Henry L. Dawes, veteran Senator from Massachusetts, the successor of Chas. Sumner.1 In his hands lay the power of doing much to mould the Government's policy towards "Poor Lo." He had served on a special committee to investigate disturbances in the Indian Territory previous to that time, and to him has been attributed the origin of the entire system of Indian education in existence during the latter part of the century.2
On February 26, 1886, the Senate passed a bill which had been introduced by Dawes, December 8, 1885, that was destined to revolutionize Indian relations. This was the now famous Dawes Act, providing for the first allotment of lands to the Indians in severalty. Constant pressure was being brought to bear, particularly from the middle west to have the unallotted lands opened for white settlement. While the Senate passed it in February 1886, it was not until February 8, 1887 that final agreement was reached by both houses and the President signed it.3 The policy of allotment was provided for in the act, but by its wording the Osages, Peorias, Miamis, Sac and Fox, and the Five Civilized Tribes, Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles, were excepted from its provisions. Of all the tribes, the latter five were possibly the nearest ready for allotment and the ending of tribal government, but they did not want it, and through influences brought to bear in Congress, as well as existing treaty conditions, they were freed from the effects of the legislation. Minute details were provided in the law. Each head of a family was to receive 160 acres, with half as much to each single person over eighteen years of age and each orphan under that age, while others under eighteen were to receive 40 acres. The land could not be sold or otherwise alienated for a period of twenty-five years, with the further provision that this period might be extended by the President of the United States at his discretion. Citizenship was to be granted to the Indian upon the delivery of his
patent. But the provision that was most pleasing to the white man was that, which provided that the President might negotiate with the view of obtaining all surplus lands left to the tribe after the allotment; said land to be open to white settlement.1
Such an act merely was a criterion of what was to follow, and those conversant with Indian affairs were not surprised, when on December 6, 1892, there was presented in the Senate a joint resolution providing for a commission to deal with the Five Civilized Tribes with the view of coming to an agreement concerning the same actions that were provided among the other tribes by the preceding bill. The author of the Resolution in the Senate was George Vest, from Missouri. Another significant fact appears when we find that Senator Dawes, as chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs presented the report of that committee, which was favorable to its passage. But the House of Representatives did not seem to favor such an action, and in order to secure its consideration, Senator J. H. Berry from Arkansas had it attached to the House Bill providing for the purchase of the Cherokee Outlet, on January 23, 1893. Even this failed to accomplish the desired purpose as the House failed to agree to its addition, so it became necessary to again attach it as a rider to a more important House Bill; this time the Indian Appropriation Measure; in which form it was finally enacted into law, March 3, 1893.2
By statute, it was provided that there should be a committee or commission of three members appointed to treat with the members of the Five Civilized Tribes, to influence them to adopt the plan of allotment with a view of giving up their tribal government in favor of a new territorial form that should be worked out by Congress. The salary of the commissioners was set at five thousand dollars a year, and they were voted funds to the sum of $50,000 to cover their expenses, including the salaries of a Secretary, a Stenographer, such interpreter or interpreters as it should be necessary to secure, and a Surveyor or other assistant or agent. The commission was to be given
wide powers of negotiation, but no authority to close agreements, at this time. They were to determine the proper amount of land to be allotted to each citizen, they were to assist in preparing the tribal rolls, and were to use their influence to get the tribes to give up their titles to the lands and their tribal government but any agreement they were to make, must be submitted, through the Secretary of Interior, to Congress for ratification before it should become binding.1
This movement to extinguish tribal rights of the Five Civilized Tribes, who had been maintaining a series of independent governments since their removal to Oklahoma during the first half of the nineteenth century, was not a new policy. The reasons advanced for its necessity were well set forth in a report of Senator Teller, as chairman of a special commission to investigate conditions in Indian Territory during the early part of 1894. In his report to the Senate, compiled after ten days investigation conducted at Muskogee from April 8th to 17th, 1894, he presented many of the common arguments used in the campaign to eliminate separate governments for the Five Civilized tribes.2 One condition presented was the great amount of population within the borders of the Territory that were completely without the jurisdiction of any organized government. The treaty situation, as conditions under existing treaties with the Indians was referred to, provided that all Indians within the limits of the different nations would be under the exclusive control of the courts of that nation. By 1894, however, the Indian population within the territory was only a small part of the total number residing within the nations. For various reasons, among the chief of which being the desire of the Indians to get whites to work their lands for them, and the desire of whites to marry into the tribes and obtain lands, as well as the practice of getting on lands through some pretext, for the purpose of holding it against any attempt at removal, there were many so-called intruders throughout the territory by this time. The number of these will never
be accurately known. Estimates vary from 109,393 in Senator Teller's report2 to more than 250,000 according to the first annual report of the Dawes Commission.3 The lands within the tribes had fallen into the hands of a few members or of intruders. Minerals and townsites were in the hands of a favored few. In one tribe, the new commission found that sixty-one citizens had absolute control of over 1,237,000 acres out of a total acreage in the nation of only 3,040,000.4
Deplorable moral conditions existed throughout the region if we are to rely upon reports from those in favor of territorial government. Trains were robbed almost in sight of thriving towns and nothing done about it; murders were committed and the murderers never brought to justice. It was cited that in one tribe there were fifty-three murders in one month and twenty-four days with not one murderer punished. However, this condition had been recognized by the Federal Government, with the result that on January 31, 1877 there had been an act passed organizing all the country west of Missouri and Arkansas, known as Indian Territory into a judicial district, to be attached to the Western District of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Violators of the law within the area who were not under the jurisdiction of the Indian Courts were to be taken to the latter place for trial. Long distances and poor administration of the laws had led to the further division of the territory in 1883, by which all the region north of the Canadian River and east of Texas and the one-hundredth meridian were annexed to the District of Kansas, the culprits being taken to Wichita and Fort Scott, while the remainder of the territory was annexed to the Northern Texas District at Paris. In addition to these adjustments, a Court of the Indian Territory was established by an act passed March 1, 1889, holding two sessions annually at Muskogee and having jurisdiction over all cases not punished by death or imprisonment at hard labor, as well as all civil cases involving not more than one-hundred dollars,
arising in the nation and not coming under the jurisdiction of the tribal courts.2
These, and similar conditions were quoted by the enemies of continued tribal government as proofs that the Indians had failed to carry out their parts of the original treaties drawn up with the federal government, and subsequently amended by the treaties of 1866. It was pointed out that they had failed to give the enjoyment of the benefits of government and the lands to all alike in allowing a small percentage of the citizens to obtain control of the vast majority of it; deplorable moral conditions were presented as evidence that the redmen were incapable of governing themselves; the presence of intruders was cited as a proof that the Indians had failed to keep their lands for their own citizens alone; while the complaints of the freedmen that they had not been admitted to citizenship and ownership within the tribes was another point in the argument. Further, the revised treaties of 1866, drawn up after the participation of the Indians in the cause of the Confederacy, had all provided that, at the discretion of the government, territorial government might be established for their rule. Evidently, the time was ripe for action.
It was not until November, 1893, that President Cleveland made his appointments to the Commission. As chairman, he selected Henry L. Dawes, so long active in affairs related to the Five Civilized tribes. As his colleagues, the President named Meredith H. Kidd of Indiana and Archibald S. McKennon of Arkansas. After only a perfunctory debate, all three were confirmed by the Senate. First draft of their instructions was forwarded to each individual member on November 28, 1894. This document, prepared by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, D. M. Browning, contained a short historical sketch of the methods by which the tribes obtained the lands; a statement of the rights of the various classes of persons residing in each nation in the common property, thereof, and closed with a charge that much must be left to the commission's
wisdom and discretion as their mission was one of great importance and delicacy, and the act by which they were created as a commission was specific as to the limits of their powers.1
Fortified with the instructions, the first meeting of the new body was held in Washington, D. C., December 8, 1893, where all preliminaries of the organization were worked out, and adjournment taken to the scene of their future activities, Indian Territory. Before leaving Washington, however, letters were dispatched to each of the Five Civilized Tribes, apprising them of the fact that the commission had been created, setting forth the purpose, and asking that they appoint delegations to confer with the new body. In January, 1894, the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, known as the Dawes Commission from its well known and popular Chairman, arrived at Muskogee, Indian Territory, established headquarters and settled down to work.2
No time was lost in getting down to the actual work for which they were appointed, as is shown by their report of 1894. On January 23rd, a special delegation from the Creeks was received at Muskogee.1 Two days later, on the 25th, the Commission addressed the tribal council of the Choctaws at Tuskahoma.2 On the 30th of the month, they were back at Muskogee to receive a delegation of Cherokees who had been chosen to wait upon them.3 February 6th found them at Tishomingo where they were addressing the council of the Chickasaws.4 Only the Seminoles held aloof from them, no answer being returned to their first letter, and not until April 6th were the commissioners given an opportunity, through an invitation of the Tribal Governor to address their Council at Wewoka.5
In March, 1894, the headquarters of the Commission were removed to South McAlester in order to be closer to the center of the area bounded by the tribal capitals.
All the first meetings were held in the form of conferences, semi-private, and the negotiators sensed a feeling adverse to their proposition in practically every tribe. At the new headquarters an international council at which all but the Seminoles were represented, was held, lasting for three days, without appreciable results. Sentiment here first seemed to recognize the wisdom of some type of agreement, but it was finally influenced by the receipt of wires from Washington, implying that the government officials, especially Congressmen, were in favor of retaining the treaty situation, and that nothing would be done without the Indians' consent. Resolutions were drawn up expressing the sentiment of the meeting as being against any action, and the Commission expressed themselves as being thoroughly convinced that the entire session had been under the control of the political leaders and the landholders of the different tribes.1
During the summer of 1894, the co-workers were kept extremely busy. A meeting with the Creek Council was held at Okmulgee on April 3rd. At this conference the Chief addressed his people in their native tongue, his speech not being interpreted. The government's representatives were later told that he had warned his people that if their plan were accepted, each Indian would receive a tract of ground four feet wide and eight feet long.2 No false illusions were entertained on the part of the negotiators as to the spirit in which they were being received. In addition to meeting with the tribal councils the group made a tour of the Choctaw and the Chickasaw nations at the request of those governments. During the Choctaw tour, they were accompanied by three attendants upon the order of the principal chief; these three men spending their time in urging the people with whom the meetings were held to have nothing to do with the proposed plan.3 Nothing daunted, the commission finally secured an audience with the Seminoles at Wewoka in April. The Council of that tribe immediately passed a resolution to have nothing further to do with the negotiations.
In order that a record might be made of the proposed
plan to be presented to the several tribes, a written copy of the proposals was prepared and presented to each of the five tribes. Those to the Choctaws and the Chickasaws were delivered first, April 23, 1894, while those to the Cherokees and the Creeks were dispatched on July 25th, the same year and that to the Seminoles on the next day. Answers to all were demanded by October 1, 1894; as it was set forth that at that time the Commission was to report what progress had been made, and what forces were retarding the Indians from acting, if they had not passed suitable resolutions by that date. Nothing was done by the end of the allotted time. The Cherokees, through their principal Chief, C. J. Harris, asked that they might delay until the date of the regular Council meeting which was to be the first Monday in November. The stay was granted, but nothing resulted. The Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks met as scheduled during October, but reports came back to those waiting for word that nothing had been done regarding the matter. The Seminoles did not even deign to reply to the request.
These proposals, embodying as they do the plan of the allotment as it was to be worked out, merit our study. For the sake of brevity, we shall point out the salient points of the offer to the Creeks, as the main bodies of all were practically the same, with only minor changes to meet varying conditions in the different nations.1 The plan was divided into ten proposals as follows:
1. All lands, except townsites, coal, and mineral lands, were to be divided among the citizens, each one getting enough, at least for a good home. This land was to be inalienable for a period of twenty-five years.
2. All intruders were to be immediately dispossessed at the expense of the United States.
3. All prior holders of town-sites, coal, and mineral lands were to be taken care of in some form of settlement, if it were possible to do so, and at the same time provide for the best interests of the nation as a whole.
4. Final Settlement was to be made on all claims against the United States.
5. Town-sites, coal and mineral lands were to be
sold and these funds, together with all other public funds except school funds, divided among the citizens according to an agreement to be reached.
6. All payments under the above agreements were to be made by a special officer, to be appointed by the President of the United States.
7. A Commission of three were to pass upon all disputed claims of citizenship; said commission to be composed of one member of the Dawes Commission, one blood Creek, and a third to be appointed by the other two, provided that the President of the United States might appoint the third member in case the two should not agree upon anyone.
8. A territorial form of government was to be set up by Congress and adopted to replace the old tribal forms.
9. This form of government, proposed in the preceding article, was to be presented to the Creeks for their ratification before it could become operative.
10. The present form of government was to continue until the allotment should be completed and the new government established.
With slight changes, the above outlined plan was presented to the other tribes. The Choctaws and Chickasaws were to be dealt with together because of their common interests. In their proposition, nothing was said about a citizenship commission.1 In the clause relative to the claims against the United States, the "leased district" was specifically included. This was deemed necessary as word had come that without some consideration of that old problem these tribes would refuse to treat.2
The Cherokee Outlet was a sore spot with the northern nation, and it was largely to handle that problem that the clause relative to the dispossession of the intruders was included in all the offers. An additional clause in the Cherokee proposal provided for two members of the Dawes Commission and one Cherokee to act as a commission to pass upon the citizenship rights of all Freedmen and to work up a complete revision of the roll of that class within
the tribe.1 At a subsequent date, the Secretary of Interior decided that the Cherokees were the sole judges as to their citizenship under existing treaties, and upon receipt of that statement, the citizenship clause was waived.
Not content with speaking before the Councils and the citizens of the several tribes, much time and activity were expended in getting the merits of the idea before the Indians. Thousands of handbills were printed and distributed. The public press, then existing in the territory, was brought into use,2 and advertising in true political style was used, but to no apparent avail. To all outward appearances nothing was gained during the first year's activity.
But in the minds of some, the end was in sight. As early as May 31, 1895, Bird Harris, brother of the Principal Chief of the Cherokees, in a letter to Reverend D. L. Berryhill set forth the hopeless cause of the Indian. While opposing the proposed plan of allotment, he suggested that the Cherokees sell all their lands, except the mineral lands and town lots, for five dollars an acre, take the money and buy a tract for a new home for the nation in Mexico or South America. Those wanting to stay might re-purchase their homes and remain among the whites.3 Any plan by which the Cherokees might retain their tribal rights would be especially welcome at this time as it was a period of great prosperity, brought about by the recent sale of the Outlet, but many saw the handwriting on the wall. The Commissioner at Union Agency, in his report for 1894 made the statement that it was the consensus of opinion among the Indians that some change was inevitable, and that it would come soon,1 just what, they did not know, and they were willing to make one more stand against the encroachments of the white man.
While their first annual report, rendered November 20, 1894, would leave the impression that the commission themselves really doubted their ability to obtain any lasting result from their mission, Congress seemed inclined to accept the statement of the Union Agent who said that the
Commission "has labored long and intelligently,"2 and provided in an act passed March 2, 1895, for an additional $30,000 and two extra members to be added to the personnel,3 as their sign that the work was to continue. The act repealed the provision of its predecessor allowing for a surveyor and other assistant agents, except the clerk.1 We find the membership greatly altered for the second year's work. Kidd was removed, being transferred to other service, and three new members were detailed to work with Dawes and McKennon; Frank C. Armstrong, Washington D. C., replacing Kidd, and Thomas B. Cabaniss, Georgia, and Alexander B. Montgomery, Kentucky, being the new men to assume positions.2
Little time was lost in resuming activities. Chairman Dawes, on April 25th, from his home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts wrote the head men of each of the nations that the commission had been enlarged and ordered to re-convene at Muskogee on May 8th. The tribes were invited to have delegations to meet with them at the earliest dates convenient to the several nations.3
Nor were the Indians slow to act. No sooner was word received, than C. J. Harris, Principal Chief of the Cherokees, wrote the leaders of the other nations, calling an International Council to convene at Fort Gibson, in the Cherokee Nation, for the purpose of outlining a policy of united action against the government's propositions. May 28th was the date set for convening. The response was prompt. On April 30th, L. C. Perryman, Principal Chief of the Creeks, replied to the call, pledging the support of his nation.1 May 5th, John F. Brown, Governor, wrote, assuring Harris that the Seminoles would be represented.2 A letter from Jeff Gardner, Principal Chief of the Choctaws, under the date line of May 7th endorsed the "meeting you suggested to make some concurrent understanding among ourselves in resisting the Government's proposition to change the ten-
ure of our lands"3 while this was seconded on the 13th of the same month by J. B. Jackson, Choctaw National Secretary, who stated that he planned to attend, whether as a commissioner or a spectator, expecting to carry a full report of the proceedings to his National Convention which was called to meet at Antlers, Choctaw Nation on the 29th. Jackson noted that some Choctaws were beginning to talk allotment, Green McCurtain being reported as making public speeches in favor of accepting the plan. However, he stated that he, Jackson, intended to start soon to make some public speeches in opposition.4 Chickasaw support, also, was promised by P. S. Mosely, Governor, on May 7th,5 and on June 6th, Chief James Bigheart of the Osages, wrote from Pawhuska that they would be represented.6
Nor, was interest in the situation confined to the residents of the nations alone. William Haydon, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, from an interest in seeing justice done to the Indians(?) wrote to Harris recommending one Colonel Thomas Donaldson of Philadelphia as a lawyer with "influence, knowledge, and energy" enough to make him an invaluable aide to the Indians.1 J. Warren Reed, an attorney of Fort Smith, wrote, asking for an address that had been delivered by Walter A. Duncan to the President of the United States, opposing statehood, to be prepared in pamphlet form and forwarded to him for use in supporting the Indians' cause.2 Many others, for altruistic or mercenary reasons, offered their services. Already, steps were being taken to appeal to the Secretary of Interior. As early as April 25th, J. F. Thompson wrote from the Union Station, St. Louis, Missouri, where he was enroute to Washington, D. C., that he would see Secretary Hoke Smith, and asked if he should ask that gentleman to come to Muskogee to meet representatives of the Indians. Thompson suggested that it would be politic to meet the Dawes Commission, and recommended that it would help local matters if Ridge Paschal were appointed from the Cherokees to
meet with them.3 Lines were being drawn for a sturdy opposition to any advances the Commission might make.
It was decided, however, that the Commission should be met with, at least, a show of civility, and accordingly a Cherokee delegation met them at Muskogee on May 11th. They were notified that the Creek Council would be meeting in a called session for at least a week after May 14th and would be glad to meet any of the Commission.1 Nothing came of the former conference, though, and the Commissioners did not even attend the Creek meeting.
Upon re-convening in the Indian Territory, the Commission immediately opened contact with the Five nations. On May 13th, a letter was sent to all the Principal Chiefs, with enclosures from President Cleveland and Secretary Smith, requesting that the two enclosed letters be published for the consumption of the citizens. In Cleveland's letter he assured the Secretary of Interior that he would not condone any plan whereby the Indians "will be led into any action which they do not thoroughly understand or which is not for their benefit."2 No replies being received to this address, five days later another was dispatched to all the head men, asking for suggested dates for conferences. Only the Choctaws responded, and they in an indefinite manner. Gardner wrote that he could do nothing without the consent of the entire nation, but he did suggest that the National Board of Education was meeting at Tuskahoma on July 8th, and that he and several others would be there and might meet some of the Commission at that time.3
A third letter, dated June 5th, in which the Commission wanted to know if any conferences were to be accorded, also elicited nothing but indefinite responses. The Cherokees could do nothing as no commission had been authorized by the National Council, while all the information that could be gleaned from the Creeks was that the letters had been turned over to the Council. Perryman wrote that "At present I am unable to ascertain what action was taken by the Council touching your propositions.
1L. C. Perryman to Henry L. Dawes—in Annual Report of the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes for 1895, page 60.
You will be informed at a later date the action taken by the Council."1 By this time, the Government's representatives were chafing with impatience, but they could only await developments, as they were only authorized to negotiate.
One ray of hope presented itself. An International Council had been called to meet at Eufaula, July 28th. But again they were doomed to disappointment. The Choctaw Nation, not being represented, there was no action taken at that meeting. Adverse sentiment was evident among those delegates present, and at an adjourned meeting, later, which was attended by three volunteer delegates from the Choctaw Nation, the resolutions of the preceding year, refusing to act, were reaffirmed.
Practically no contacts were made, officially, during July and August as there were warm political campaigns being waged during those months in every nation and the Commission deemed it best to make no show of mixing into the political situations. However, constant interviews were being held for the purpose of learning the true condition of the governments. Information was hard to obtain of the actual workings of affairs as witnesses were intimidated and popular sentiment precluded any friendly attitude toward the body. The mayor of one of the towns was reported to have furnished some information to the Commission, and on a subsequent trip to Missouri he was followed by two armed Indians. He appealed to the body for protection for his return journey, but none could be furnished; they were banded together only for negotiation.
General conditions were reported as being no better than those of the preceding year. Many whites were in the territory who had built up permanent improvements in the form of business buildings and homes. They could obtain no title to the land upon which they were settled. Many towns, ranging in size from 800 to 5,000 population had been developed along the Railway lines. The best title that could be obtained to town lots was in the form of a lease from a citizen Indian who had enclosed the townsite for his "exclusive use," or a quit claim given to the builder. While,
it is true, these quit claims often carried a covenant that the lessor would convey any better title he might be able to obtain to the lessee, as long as the land was held in common, no relief was to be expected from that source.
Murders continued with no adequate means of punishment, owing to the divided jurisdiction between the Federal and the Indian Courts. It was reported that the Federal Judge at Fort Smith had imposed 153 death penalties between 1875 and 1895, but the fact that there had been 20 convictions within the past year did not indicate any abatement of murder throughout the territory.1 The records of the court at Paris, Texas were duplications of those at Fort Smith.
Misrule was prevalent in all the governments. Citizenship was precarious. Among the Cherokees, especially, there was much room for complaint on that score. The necessity for a judicial hearing before removal from the citizenship rolls had been removed in that nation and many were added to the rolls and removed from them at the whim of powerful politicians. The report of the Commis- sion is quoted for the statement that "The governments in all their branches are wholly corrupt, irresponsible and unworthy to be trusted with the care and control of the money and property of Indian citizens, much less their lives, which they scarcely pretend to protect."2
With the conclusion of the campaigns, active operations were resumed. Members of the Commission spoke to proponents of allotment at meetings held at Antlers and Hartshorne, in the Choctaw country. By the latter part of September, Governor Mosely of the Chickasaws informed the group that the National Council of his nation was ready to consider the propositions that were to be submitted. It was preferable to the Commission to deal only with a small body of selected representatives, but desirous of taking advantage of every opportunity offered it was arranged that four members were to meet with the Council on the eighth of October. Here, they urged the appointment of a committee with power to treat. Apparently, a half-hearted response was elicited from the nation, for we find Mosely
writing on November 1st that as commission of five had been appointed. The degree of enthusiasm with which the matter was attacked on the part of the Indians is well indicated by the last part of his letter in which he stated; "I suppose when the commission gets organized you will receive further notification."1 In searching the annual report of the Dawes Commission to Congress, we are led to believe that the Chickasaw Commission took rather long in the organization work, as nothing more was heard from them until after the end of the year.
A little more cordial attitude was noted on the part of the Choctaws. After an extended correspondence between the Government's representatives and Olosachubbee, chairman of a Commission appointed by that nation to deal with them, three members of the former body journeyed to Tuskahoma, where an oral proposition was submitted on October 29th, to be supplemented on the following day by a written statement mailed from Fort Smith, Arkansas, in which the Indians were assured that the desire of the Commission was to deal only for the best interest of all concerned.1 All the Choctaws, however were evidently not in favor of affirmative action as is shown by the tenor of a bill that passed the Senate of their legislative body with only one dissenting vote. This act designated as a criminal offense any attempt to overthrow the Choctaw Government, to hold land in severalty, or to betray Choctaw lands into the hands of any foreign power; a crime punishable by imprisonment of from six to twelve months and a fine of from $1,000 to $10,000 for the first offense and summary execution for the second.2 Embarrassing complications were doubtlessly avoided when the lower house refused to pass the bill, but it illustrates the attitude of a certain element in the nation.
Creek negotiations never reached a satisfactory state as we find a letter forwarded to their Principal Chief as late as October 4th, in which attention is called to the fact that no notice had been received as to the proceedings of the special session of their Council which had been held in
May.3 However, the desired information was not received even then.
From the Cherokees, also, only evasive replies were forthcoming. After a summary letter asking for information from C. J. Harris, that dignitary replied to the Commission on November 1st that his term was to expire in a few weeks, and that many duties were to devolve upon his successor, "Among the many will be the submission of your propositions to the National Council . . . . and to which I will call his particular attention."1 From the Seminoles, nothing was heard.
1895 had been almost as barren of results as had the previous year. At the close of the year, two things stood out in the minds of those who had been studying the situation. The Five nations were opposed to any alteration of their present status, and any reform of existing conditions must be brought about by an effective addition to the powers of those empowered to treat with them. The plan for the latter was set forth in the recommendations for necessary legislation. The immediate organization of a territory in this area was requested, as was a bill extending the jurisdiction of the United States courts over all matters arising in the territory of the Five Civilized Tribes.2
If 1895 had been without evident results, 1896 was destined to be more fruitful. Congress, acting favorably upon the recommendations of their representatives, went to work on the enactment of legislation that would make their work productive of more effective results. A very vital piece of legislation was the law enacted on June 10, 1896. The authority and scope of work of the Dawes Commission was greatly enlarged and the bill stated, definitely that it was the intention of Congress to form a territory of the area inhabited by the Five Nations. A complete roll of the citizens of the Five Nations was to be compiled by the Commissioners. They were to accept the rolls that were already prepared by the different tribes, and in addition to this were to hear any claims of citizenship that should be filed with them within a ninety day period after the
passage of the law. The claim might be filed before the tribal Council under the same provisions as prepared for the Dawes Commission, and in either instance, was to be passed on within a ninety day period after filing. Appeal might be taken from the decisions to the District Courts of the United States, within sixty days of their rendition, and the decision of those tribunals on matters of citizenship was to be final. Thus, in one act, the power of determining who should be citizens of the different tribes was taken away from them, and any judicial hearing on decisions was taken from the tribal courts, where it had rested since their organization. The completed rolls, which were to be completed and filed within six months with the Secretary of Interior were also to include the names of all freedmen who were entitled to citizenship. A report was also to be compiled of all leases in the tribes, and all instances of excess holdings by tribal members.1
Nothing was done in the way of reopening negotiations until after the above legislation had been passed. Returning to the territory soon after its passage, the commission forwarded letters to each head man on July 1, 1896, with a copy of the new law that was to give them more extensive powers. Headquarters were moved to Vinita, for the added advantage of close proximity to the Cherokees, in which nation a great part of their citizenship work was to be done. The tone of this letter was much more positive than had been any previous epistles to the Indians. A confidence in the authority to actually accomplish something was evident. While it was stated that this law gave power to the Commission to force action, it was still desired by the negotiators to accomplish their ends by negotiation. The object for which they had been working was not to be lost sight of in the new duties relative to citizenship rolls, and lease reports.
The work for the year was divided into two distinct phases; the preparation of the required rolls and reports, and the continued negotiations to secure the Indians' assent to allotment and dissolution of tribal government. In the first phase much was accomplished in the alloted time. Just a week from the time the first letter had been transmitted
to the different tribes, a second was forwarded, in which the procedure was outlined, by which applicants for citizenship might hope to make proper advances. All applications, according to the statute, must be in within a ninety day period, or by September 10th. They must be written, signed, and sworn to and must set forth full cause or reasons by which the applicant hoped to be added to the rolls; and must be accompanied by evidence of the truth of the claims in the form of affidavits, depositions, etc. A duplicate must be sent to the Chief of the tribe into which he hoped to be admitted, and that party, if they hoped to contest the application, was to be forced to file an answer in thirty days, setting forth his reasons for contest.1 Final decisions on all cases were to be rendered by December 10th.
There was a ready response on the part of those who desired to be enrolled. During the filing period there were a total of 7,300 applications, upon which 5,869 had been acted upon at the time of the annual report, dated November 28, 1896.2 Leading politicians in the several tribes were not slow to realize that there was a different dispensation under which they were dealing, and they were not much longer in grasping the political significance that had appeared than their white cousins would have been. At least a show of co-operation was maintained. The Creeks appointed a commission to take up citizenship matters with the negotiators. Two Chickasaws were appointed to handle all matters of that nature pertaining to their nation, while the Cherokees went even further, and sent a dispatch to the Commission asking that sessions on cases arising among the Cherokees be held at Tahlequah. This offer, however, was declined, but it was pointed out that headquarters had been opened within the Cherokee Nation, at which all hearings, not only for their tribe, but for all five, were being held. To say that all matters were settled amicably would be inferring too much, but, at least, there was a semblance of unity of action being developed.
In the matter of securing the tribal rolls, in order that completed rolls might be prepared for filing with the Secretary of Interior, there was not a marked success. On
August 8th, letters were mailed to all the tribes asking that a complete tribal roll be furnished the Commission by December 10th. Responses were not immediately forthcoming. On September 5th, Governor Brown of the Seminoles acknowledged receipt of the request and said that the matter would be attended to, but it wasn't.1 The Creeks appointed a commission of two to take up matters of this kind, and they were in session with the Dawes Commission at Vinita at different times. But the letters relating to the tribal roll, and also to a report on leases within the tribe,2 remained unanswered. The letters to Jeff Gardner of the Choctaws, likewise remained unanswered, but a later one addressed to the new Chief, Green McCurtain on October 1st, brought forth the reply that the requests for information had been turned over to the National Agent to be supplied. First requests to the Chickasaw Nation, likewise went unheeded, but another letter to R. M. Harris, the new Principal Chief who had recently taken office brought a reply, but a rather indefinite one. Nothing was said about the tribal rolls, but it was stated that all leases for more than one year were illegal. If such were in existence, there were no records. The Nation had not been able to get enough evidence about them to convict any holders of such leases, and therefore nothing could be furnished on the subject, to the Dawes Commission.1
But, while much work and attention was being given to the citizenship cases, the major idea of the Commission, that of negotiation, was not lost sight of. Here, as in the matter of citizenship, the Indians were quick to grasp the idea that the die had been cast. They realized that more was to be accomplished in the subsequent tribal readjustment through working in harmony with the movement, rather than opposing the will of the United States. The latter policy had brought them much suffering in the past. In order that a solid front might be presented, an international council of chiefs was held on July 7th at Okmulgee,
1Overton Love, Chairman of Commission of Chickasaws, to Dawes Commission—October 24, 1896, in Annual Report of Dawes Commission for 1896, page 113.
but the Choctaws not being represented, an adjourned meeting was held at Eufaula on the 28th of the same month. Here, the Chiefs after deliberation adopted a series of resolutions in which the nations were urged to treat with the Commission relative to adopting their proposals. This was in marked contrast to the sentiment of conferences of preceding years, when the feeling had been so strong against any action. The federal representatives had helped sway the sentiment by pointing out that the Curtis Act had already passed the House of Representatives, and that if some action was not forthcoming, the United States Government would take charge of the situation and do by legislation that which it was now offering to do peacefully, as a chance to reach a mutual agreement.
It was not long until each of the tribes, with the exception of the Seminoles had appointed a Commission to deal with the Dawes Commission. Comprising the Cherokee group were D. W. Bushyhead, Robert B. Ross, C. V. Rogers, DeKinney Waters, and Robin Pann.1 From early in September, when notification of their appointment was forwarded, until the end of the year, an extensive correspondence was carried out. A preliminary conference was held at Vinita on September 28th, followed by a submission of the propositions. Following this, there was an agreement between the two groups to meet for a more extensive conference at Muskogee during the week of December 14th; but for several reasons, the chief of which was the fact that the Dawes body were busily engaged in conferences with the Choctaws and Creeks that gave promise of being more fruitful than the Cherokee meetings, they did not meet the latter body until after January 1, 1897. The Cherokees were not ready, as yet, to accept allotment without further parley and political maneuvering, of which they were so fond.
With the Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks greater progress was made. By December, negotiations had reached such a stage that both sides were offering modified proposals and counter proposals. The basis for the reopened dealings was largely a series of resolutions which had been adopted by an International Conference of Commissioners
appointed to deal from the Indian tribes. This meeting, held at South McAlester on November 12th, resulting in a series of proposals which were drawn up and signed by nine Choctaw, eleven Creek, six Cherokee, five Seminole, and two Chickasaw representatives, who stated that they spoke for sixty-five thousand Indians. While they were far from the proposals of Dawes and his colleagues, they at least furnished a starting point from which both sides might progress. Among the demands forwarded by the Indians were: All tribal claims against the United States were to be paid in full; Division must be on a basis of share and share alike, with title to remain in the several nations until statehood should be achieved; Each citizen was to be paid an indemnity of at least five hundred dollars for forfeiting tribal rights; Tribal governments were to be maintained just as long as possible; All provisions were to be carried out before tribal governments should be abolished; No consent should ever be given to territorial government or a union with Oklahoma Territory; and any change in governmental form must be statehood with irrepealable constitutional rights provided in a written document.1 Upon this foundation, it was decided that the best interests of the nations justified another approach toward negotiations.
The Creeks had a rather hard time coming to an agreement as to a meeting place. The United States Commission was invited to come to Okmulgee, but declined, owing to the fact that it was impossible to get there by rail. In their turn, they suggested Muskogee or Sapulpa. Finally they did get together at Muskogee, only to adjourn to Eufaula, where the same propositions that had been presented in 1894 were again submitted on September 29th. After an extended correspondence, the Creek Commission consisting of Pleasant Porter, Chairman, W. A. Sapulpa, D. M. Hodge, G. A. Alexander, Joseph Mingo, Roland Brown, Concharty Micco2 met the Dawes Commission at Muskogee in a series of conferences beginning December 14th. On many of the points of the proposals, accord was reached, but on others, particularly the one dealing with the abolition of Indian Courts, both sides remained obdurate. The end of the year still found them at variance.
The Chickasaws opened separate negotiations early in October, but wanted to suspend any further treatment of their problems until they could confer with their allied nation, the Choctaws. It was with this latter group that first success was attained.
The summer elections in the Choctaw Nation had resulted in a complete victory for the Allotment Party. Evidently Green McCurtain had proved the more adept at making public speeches than the opposition, for we see him coming in as Principal Chief; immediately offering to furnish any desired information to the Dawes Commission; and working to secure the authorization of a body to deal with them. In this he was successful and the National Convention passed a bill providing for a Commission to treat, instructing them to attempt to make an agreement whereby the Choctaws were to supervise their own distribution, and authorizing the Principal Chief, upon the negotiation of a satisfactory document to appoint two other members to accompany him, together with the Dawes body, to Washington D. C. to secure ratification of the document by the United States Government. Evidently, the party in power did not intend that their services should go unrequited, as we find the bill providing that each of the Commissioners was to receive $1,000 for his services, the three going to Washington to receive $3,500 each and the Principal Chief to be allowed an expense account of $1,500.1
This body then asked a conference at Fort Smith to be held on November 16th, and the United States Commissioners, sensing the significance of the move immediately granted the request, and in order that they might be conveniently located, and yet be enabled to carry forward their citizenship investigations, removed their headquarters, together with all the records from Vinita to the scene of the new negotiations. The conferences were very amicable, continuing until December 12th, when they adjourned to Muskogee for final exchanges, which resulted in the first draft of an agreement, satisfactory to both parties, but not finally ratified. The Choctaws having conferred with representatives of the Chickasaws before coming to the sessions, the meetings and agreements were thought of as
being representative of both the kindred tribes. An exceedingly friendly attitude was displayed by the Indians, now that they realized that nothing was to be gained from a display of arrogance.1
The original propositions submitted by the Dawes Commission were similar to those presented, time after time to all the tribes, providing for an equal distribution of the lands among the Choctaws, with the exception of townsites and mineral rights which were to be disposed of to the best interests of the tribe at a later date. Provisions were to be made for the laying out of townsites and establishing town government; jurisdiction in all civil and criminal cases was to be transferred to the Federal Courts; all invested funds, with the exception of the school and charitable funds were to be divided equally among the citizens; all matters within the power of the Commission to be treated, were to be settled at once; and the present government was to be allowed to remain in existence until the lands were delivered over to the allottees.
Countering this, the Indians proposed that all the recommendations were satisfactory except that dealing with the change in jurisdiction, and the one relating to settlement of all claims, which was to be accepted, only in the
1Choctaw Commission to Dawes Commission:
Fort Smith, Ark.
The delegates representing the Choctaw Nation, before departing for their respective homes desire to express to you their sincere thanks for the many courtesies accorded to them by you. We hope that no act of ours has caused you unnecessary trouble or annoyance, that the kindly feeling you have manifested for our nation will go with you in the further discharge of your onerous duties.
We deeply regret that the language of the law under which we are acting does not confer upon us the necesssary power to negotiate with you upon the important questions affecting the welfare of our people, but trust that the wisdom of our legislators will direct the return to you of a commission sufficiently empowered to finally settle the destiny of a defenseless people, relying alone upon the Justice of their cause, the honor of your government, and the integrity of yourselves. In all of these we have implicit confidence.
With our best wishes to each of you, we beg leave to subscribe ourselves as your friends.
Overton Love (Chairman)
event that the Dawes Commission were empowered to treat on vital subjects. In addition, they suggested that their present form of government be extended for a long enough period for the Choctaws to become adjusted to new lines and ready for state government; certain railway conditions, on which they had conferred orally were to be adjusted. The remainder of the leased district was to be paid for; specific supervision over Congressional legislation affecting the Choctaws by the President to be provided; indemnity for privileges given up by the Choctaws to be paid; lands to be inalienable and non-taxable for a period to be specified in the titles; the 98th meridian to be astronomically located by the United States Government; and the orphan lands of the Choctaws in Mississippi to be purchased by the Federal Government at $1.25 per acre.
Finally, December 18th, an agreement was reached, and signed by a Choctaw Commission of eight, including Green McCurtain, Principal Chief, and the Dawes Commission. In its general form, it followed the original proposals of the latter group. The Choctaw and Chickasaw Chiefs were to deliver to the United States a deed for all their lands, to be held in trust until allotments were completed; specific provisions for allotment were reached; the jurisdiction of the federal courts was extended over the Choctaws and Chickasaws; parts of the Arkansas laws, dealing with subjects not covered by tribal law were to be extended over the nations; a modified form of the tribal governments was to be in force for eight years, it being estimated that it would take that long for the Commission to complete necessary surveys and work incident to the change; and the plan of allotment to be carried to completion.1
Thus, at the end of almost three years of negotiation, the entering wedge had been driven. Nothing remained except the formal ratification by the tribe and United States Government. True, compulsion had been used by the stronger government, but that method had been used in previous encounters with Indians. No especial compunction was felt on that score. It was merely one more development in the federal Indian policy. The Dawes Commis-
sion could truly report progress. They were now ready to enter upon the second phase of their work.
With potential success before them, the Dawes Commission entered into the year of 1897 with renewed confidence. The Choctaws and Chickasaws seemed about to comes to terms. But, the accomplishment of their purpose was not to be so easily attained. What appeared to be a very innocent provision of the agreement of December 18th, 1896 became a stumbling block over which neither side was able to rise, when the Choctaws, whose representatives had entered into the first stages of an agreement, refused to consent to an arrangement in which their lands were to be turned over to the United States in-toto. As a consequence, a new agreement had to be worked out.
However, now that a start had been made, the succeeding negotiations were much easier. In the first proceedings, the Chickasaws had not been represented, so nothing official had been placed before that nation. But, with the opening of the new year, they were included with the Choctaw Commission in the attempts to bring about a new agreement. Only four members of the federal commission were active in bringing about the agreement that was worked out at this time. Dawes, because of ill health was unable to spend much time in the territory, and his colleagues were compelled to carry on largely without him. During the time that the matters were being brought to a successful completion, Armstrong acted as Chairman, and we find that only four of the Commission signed the final agreement.1
Finally, on April 23, 1897, these four, together with a commission of seven Choctaws and six Chickasaws entered into an agreement, known as the Atoka agreement, for the realization of the ends toward which the Dawes Commission had been working for a little more than three years.2 In this, the obnoxious provision, whereby the tribal lands
2The Choctaw signatures included those of Green McCurtain, Principal Chief, J. S. Standley, N. B. Ainsworth, Ben Hampton, Wesley Anderson, Amos Henry, and D. C. Garland; the Chickasaws were R. M. Harris, Governor, Isaac O. Lewis, Holmes Colbert, Robert L. Murray, William Perry, and R. L. Boyd; while F. C. Armstrong, Acting Chairman, A. S. McKennon, T. A. Cabaniss, and A. B. Montgomery signed for the Dawes Commission, while H. M. Jacoway, Jr., Secretary of the Commission attested the Document—Ibid., 656.
were to be turned over to the United States to be held in trust, until the provisions of the document were carried out, was omitted, in its place a clause being inserted that the Principal Chief of the Choctaws and the Governor of the Chickasaws were to jointly execute all patents to be delivered to the allotees.3
If the agreement were to be ratified by both parties, the Choctaws and Chickasaws on the one part and the United States Senate upon the other, it would mark the completion of one phase of the federal body's work, but an examination of some of the clauses of the document shows us that their work was far from done with these two tribes. Into their hands, for solution, was placed one of the most knotty problems that had faced the Chickasaws for years, that of ascertaining just who were the freedmen of the tribe, and their descendants. According to the provisions, a complete roll of the Chickasaw freedmen was to be prepared by the Commission, in order that they might be given forty acres, or the equivalent in value to forty acres of the average lands of the tribe's. But a more Herculean task was given them in the clause that provided that the allotment to the tribal citizens should be equal in value, that is, the number of acres was not to be the same to each allottee, but rather, each portion was to be equal, based upon the value of the lands, without improvements, which he took. To the Dawes Commission, with one appointed representative from each of the two nations, was given the task of making the necessary appraisements. With these two tasks, the band of men were destined to be busily occupied for a number of years.
The treaty, or agreement, is worthy of study, as representing the common basis of all subsequent agreements, and also as embodying the particular stipulations that provided for conditions peculiar to the two nations alone. Among the latter, were minute regulations governing the leasing of the coal and asphalt lands found only in these nations, the returns from which, were to be collected into a fund to provde for education of the tribes in the future. The matter of leases of mineral lands, also made itself felt in the provisions for townsite sales and reservations. $558,520.54
was to be transferred to the treasury of the Chickasaw nation to pay interest in arrears on their trust funds, which had been erroneously left off the books of the United States for short periods during their trusteeship. Provision was made that the final decision of the Courts of the United States in the suits of the cases by which the Choctaws and Chickasaws had long sought payment for the so-called Leased District, between the 98th and 100th meridians, and the Red and Canadian Rivers, should be accepted as the final adjudication in these matters.
In the general provisions, the Atoka Agreement followed the line adopted in similar understandings with other nations. Allotment was to be provided for all the lands, upon an equal basis among the citizens. Certain reserves were to be set aside, as townsites, sites of churches and parsonages, national and mission schools, cemeteries, lands for tribal capitols, and courthouses, and even land for well loved and honored missionaries. The allotments were to be based upon value of the lands, alone, and each citizen who had built improvements on a given piece of land were to be given an opportunity of taking that allotment first, without having to credit the improvements in the value of his allotment.
Looking toward ultimate abolition of tribal government, the jurisdiction of the United States Courts in the territory was to be extended over the citizens and white non-citizens alike. However, provision was made whereby it would be easy to obtain a change of venue to the federal court at Fort Smith, Arkansas, or Paris, Texas if they felt justice could not be obtained in one of the territorial courts. Legislative autonomy was taken from the tribal councils in the provision that the President of the United States should give his consent to any new laws passed in the nations before they should become effective. Only the necessary expenditures for the governmental functions could be spent, and a close supervision was placed over every action of that nature, on the part of the federal government. In order that subjects not dealt with by the Choctaw and Chickasaw laws in a uniform manner might be provided for, certain sections of the Arkansas laws were to be extended over this larger jurisdiction.
No debts acquired before allotment was complete should be effective or held against the new lands in which the Indian was to acquire title. As a further protection, it was to be tax exempt for a period not to exceed twenty-one years, nor could it be alienated for a like period of years. According to the agreement, tribal government was to be entirely abandoned after a period of eight years from March 4, 1898. Thus, by one agreement, was the work of centuries, the building of two independent nations, undone. All that remained to consummate the proceedings was ratification by the two nations and by the United States Senate.
On the part of the Indians, ratification was not yet to be easily secured. Without much trouble, the councils both ratified, but the Chickasaws provided that their citizens should vote on the question in a popular referendum. In this, the treaty went down before a majority of 112 votes in 1897.1 But the United States was not to be denied. In the Curtis Act, passed June 28, 1898, there was a provision that the documents, together with a subsequent one drawn up with the Creeks later in 1897, should be submitted to the nations for another vote.2 As a result of this vote, in the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, the treaty was ratified by a large vote, on August 24, 1898, and the Commission immediately went to work on the preliminary tasks, looking to allotment, the United States Senate having taken favorable action on June 28, 1898.
Again, in this operation, we find Congress resorting to strategy to force their point. The Act of June 8, 1897 had provided that the tribal courts should lose their jurisdiction to the federal courts on January 1, 1898; but when word arrived that negotiations were progressing with the Choctaws and Chickasaws, the Senate went so far as to pass a Joint Resolution suspending the operation of the act, pending ratification on July 7, 1897. Before passage by the House, however, word had come that the Chickasaws had refused to ratify, so the latter body, refused to pass the resolution. If the Indians would not ratify, then they should be persuaded.
On September 16, 1897, an agreement similar to that with the two southern nations was negotiated with the Seminoles. Not so much opposition was encountered in getting this ratified, and when, in June 1898, the Senate confirmed the treaty it was immediately placed into operation; the first agreement with any of the Five Civilized Tribes went into operation.1
Several days after the Seminoles had dealt with the Commission, the Creek commissioner entered into an understanding. This treaty, dated September 27, 1897, was transmitted to the National Council of the Creek Nation, by Isparhecher, Principal Chief, accompanied by a special message, on October 8th. In this message, the Head Man sets forth some very convincing arguments why it should not be ratified. The system of allotment was pointed out as being dangerous. "Some of us, however, tried the sad experiment in Georgia and Alabama a little over a half century ago, resulting in our final removal therefrom." The Creeks had never had a homeless wanderer under the prevalent system of land tenure, but would probably be faced with that if it were changed. Court cases, over titles would multiply. To adopt allotments would be merely to substitute individual strength for the strength of a united people. "In other words, every citizen will take upon himself the duty of protecting his home that is now being done by a combined wisdom and strength of the Muscogee Nation. Not only so, but he assumes the responsibility of coping single-handed with the avaricious land sharks of the American continent. Many of the shrewdest and enlightened citizens of the United States are homeless simply because they are not able single-handed to protect their home from sharpers."1
Against such argument, the Council could not remain impervious. At least, the House of Warriors unanimously adopted a resolution, which was concurred in by the House of Kings by a vote of 23 to 8, and approved October 18, 1897, to reject the treaty.2
It was this action which led Congress, in June, 1898 to provide that the Creek treaty should be submitted to
the people along with that of the Chickasaws and Choctaws. Isparhecher, however, did not call an election until November 1st and then the voters failed to ratify by about 150 votes. Thus, 1899 came and the Creeks had failed to agree to the propositions of the federal government.
With the Cherokees slower progress was made. During 1897, the Cherokees and Dawes Commission had held intermittent communications and, in many instances, joint sessions. Point after point in the proposals and counter proposals were taken up and discussed. Typical of the character of their discussions are the minutes of a series of joint meetings held in May of that year. At these meetings, held at Tahlequah, there were a series of talks upon different topics. Mr. Naked Head, a fullblood, protested against any idea that the full-bloods were dissatisfied with their lot; rather he pointed out that they would be dissatisfied if conditions were to be changed. He charged that the Dawes Commission had drawn their ideas as to the conditions in the full-blood country by hearsay, that they had never been in their country, but had spent their time near the railways. The question of town lots, and their dispositon called forth several speeches. A Mr. Rodgers, connected with a Baptist Mission at Tahlequah was soliticious that the rights of that institution be continued in their present status. Another speaker wanted assurance that the little school houses in the country, together with their title to their accompanying plot of ground, should be taken care of, and particularly should it be watched that roads be kept open to make them accessible a condition that might cause an emergency, if the school should be in the center of an allotment. Compensation was asked to make up for the loss of the tribal rights the citizens of the nations must undergo. Another very serious problem was whether or not, the Cherokees even wanted allotment, and if they did, which should be the best plan. The Dawes Commission pointed out that differing circumstances precluded the drawing of the same agreement with them that had been drawn with the Choctaws and Chickasaws. These, and other problems, took up many days of the time of the joint commission.1
But, nothing was done. No agreement was worked out during either 1897 or 1898. A new commission was appointed by the Cherokees late in 1898, with instructions that their authority should last only thirty days. They met the Dawes Commission on December 19, 1898 and remained in session until January 14, 1899. It was during the latter year that these people were satisfactorily taken care of on the question of allotment.
The personnel of the Dawes Commission had also undergone a drastic change during 1897. Cabaniss and Montgomery, who had been added in 1895 both went off the body that year, and in their place, Tams Bixby, a Minnesota editor, and Thomas B. Needles of Illinois were added. Bixby, in his position as Vice Chairman, was destined to become the most influential member of the entire history of the commission's activities. As time went on, old age, and increasing ill health kept Chairman Dawes at his home in Massachusetts more and more. Bixby proved a very efficient executive, handling the affairs in very creditable form. It was largely under his supervision that the actual details of allotment were carried out.
1898 marked the passage of the legislation that practically ended any controversy as to what the subsequent status of the Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes was to be. This was the Curtis Act, passed June 28th, which had been prepared by the Senate Indian Committee under the direction of William Curtis, himself a Kaw Indian of Kansas. A long time was taken in the preparation of the proposed enactment. During the period preceding its passage, the Dawes Commission had been retained at Washington to furnish any desired information. The different tribes sent representatives to the capitol to lobby against its passage, but to no avail. The United States Government had decided that matters had been delayed long enough.
According to the Act, it was provided that allotment should take place among the tribes whether they were willing or not. It was this bill that largely influenced the Indians to make their decisions relative to ratification of the treaties already drawn up. The provisions taking the jurisdiction from the Indian Courts were confirmed, and
the Dawes Commission was delegated to carry out its several provisions.
As the time for actual allotment approached, it became necessary for the government to have tribal rolls upon which it could base its division of lands. In each of the five tribes rolls of the Indians by blood, adoption, and intermarriage were required, as were also Freedmen rolls. Among the Cherokees, there was an additional demand in the demand for a roll of the Delawares who were settled among the larger nation, the law having provided that the Dawes Commission should segregate 157,600 acres that had been purchased by the Delawares, from the lands of the Cherokees, before allotment should start in that nation.
The preparation of the rolls forced a new type of duty upon the federal representatives. Where, before, only additions were made to the existing rolls, they were now to be given the authority to make up entirely new enumerations, including passage upon the validity of names already enrolled, as well as new applicants for citizenship. This, added to the fact, that there were many disputed claims among the Freedmen who were seeking to be admitted to tribal citizenship, necessitated a changed policy on the part of the Commission. Where, before they had been content to deal with the leaders of each nation, going where they could easily get by rail, they now purchased tents, and went into the far corners of the nation, where they made a personal canvass of conditions, and heard disputed applications in person. This seemed to create a better spirit between them and the people with whom they were dealing. By 1898, the census of the Seminoles was reported complete and ready for allotment. Starts had also been made with the Creeks and the Chickasaws. The preliminary work toward allotment was well under way when we leave them.
Now, at the end of five years, we leave the Dawes Commission. The first phase of their work was almost complete, and they were well started on the second. Tentative agreements had been reached, and already they were started on the preliminary work of allotment. Whether the policy of the Federal Government in bring-
ing the tribal histories to an end, and placing the land available to white domination, will remain a mooted question for some time. But one thing must be admitted, the Commission delegated with the task of puting that policy into effect had started in an efficient manner, and was becoming a vital cog in the administrative unit of the federal organization.