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"Almost as far as one could see up and down the valley were covered wagons and people stirring about. . . . The smoke of ten thousand campfires hung like fog over the entire valley." This description by the historian E. E. Dale, who participated in the great land lottery of 1901, recalls a landscape transformed by 164,000 home seekers who registered to draw for thirteen thousand 160-acre tracts to be opened to settlement on the Wichita-Caddo-Delaware and the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservations.

The reservations had been divided into two land districts, Lawton and El Reno, and those wanting to register were organized into companies; both individuals and companies were assigned numbers and allowed to register at one of the district offices for a quarter section in either district. Registration continued from July 10 to July 26, and once registered, hopeful homesteaders could go onto the land to locate the most desirable available quarter sections. Excluded from settlement were Indian allotments and land set apart for townsites and military, school, or other public purposes.

The drawings began on July 29 and on August 6. Those whose names had been drawn began to enter, in order of number drawn, to stake their claims. Lots in each county seat (Lawton, Anadarko, and Hobart) were auctioned to the highest bidder. The event, which heralded the last great land opening in Oklahoma Territory and signaled approaching statehood, had been widely promoted in newspapers and was reported in leading national magazines.

The opening of the Wichita-Caddo-Delaware Reservation marked the end of more than a decade of Indian resistence to the allotment in severalty of their reservation, the cession of land in excess of allotment or "surplus" lands, and the opening of the reservation to white settlement. Under provisions of the 1887 General Allotment (Dawes) Act, the Jerome (Cherokee) Commission had negotiated an allotment and land cession agreement in 1891 with the Wichita and Affiliated Bands (Waco, Tawakoni, and Kichai), the Caddo, and the Delaware. The Commission had rejected all efforts of the tribes to retain their tribal land base, including tribal leaders' proposals that a portion of the reservation be retained in common by the tribes. Also rejected were tribal leaders' requests that allotments be increased, as their land was more suited to cattle raising than to farming, and as 160 acres was not enough to provide for their self-support. The tribes were successful in their demand for legal counsel and for payment of $1.25 an acre for surplus land, rather than the fifty cents offered by the commission.

The final agreement, signed by 152 of the total adult male population of 227, provided for 160-acre allotments (eighty acres each of farm and pasture land) and the determination by Congress of the amount to be paid to the tribes for surplus lands. A provision was also included that the agreement would not prejudice any pending land claims by the tribes. The agreement had been negotiated in 1872 for the reservation, bounded by the Washita and Canadian Rivers and the 98th meridian and 98° 40', that had been assigned to the tribes, but the agreement was never ratified by Congress. However, the tribes also claimed land, including some extending west to the 100th meridian, which they asserted had been reserved to them when the first Wichita Reservation was established in 1859. That reserve had been assigned on lands leased by the federal government from the Choctaws and Chickasaws, who now brought suit for title to surplus lands in the former Leased District. Resistence to allotment and the pending legal suit delayed the ratification of the agreement until 1895 and the opening of the reservation until 1901.

Delegations of chiefs and leading men to Washington, D.C., and a series of petitions and memorials to Congress by legal representatives of the tribes challenged provisions of the 1891 agreement, sought delay of allotment, and pursued land claims. Joining the tribes in their resistence to allotment and land cession were cattlemen who leased reservation pasture and intermarried whites who ran cattle and cultivated reservation land in excess of the proposed 160-acre allotments.

On January 12, 1901, a Supreme Court mandate dismissed the claim of the Choctaws and Chickasaws to surplus lands on the reservation and awarded title to the tribes of the Wichita-Caddo-Delaware Reservation. In less than four months the survey and allotment of the reservation were completed. The final allotment schedule was approved on July 2, and on July 4 a presidential proclamation was issued opening the reservation to settlement by lottery rather than by the customary land run. Nine hundred fifty-seven tribal members were allotted a total of 152,714 acres and 586,468 acres were opened to settlement.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Kenny L. Brown, "The Land Lottery of 1901," Prairie Lore 16 (July 1979). Berlin B. Chapman, "Dissolution of the Wichita Reservation," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 22 (Part I, Summer 1944; Part II, Fall 1944). Edward Everett Dale, "Oklahoma's Great Land Lottery," Great Plains Journal 22 (1983).

Carolyn Garrett Pool

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