Applications for Enrollment of the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898–1914. Microfilm M1301, 468 rolls; NAID: 617283, 650078, and 650147; Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75; The National Archives in Washington, D.C.
This collection includes enrollment applications of members of the Five Civilized tribes in what was Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. The applications are primarily from the years 1898–1906, although some were added in 1914. Application packets vary in size and scope but typically include an affidavit from the applicant and supporting documentation that proved his or her eligibility for tribal membership.
The packets are arranged by tribe and status (member by blood, marriage, freedmen, minors, etc.). Applicants who had blended backgrounds typically chose tribal affiliation based on the heritage of the mother.
The General Allotment Act, or Dawes Act, in 1887 parceled out formerly communal tribal lands and allotted them to individual tribal members. Initially members of the Five Civilized Tribes—the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muskogee), and Seminole Tribes—were excluded from the act. In 1893, the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, chaired by Henry Dawes, was established to convince the leaders of the Five Civilized Tribes to accept allotment. The Dawes Commission began accepting applications for tribal citizenship, or enrollment, in 1896, but with the enactment of the Curtis Act in 1898, these enrollments were declared invalid and new enrollments began in 1898.
More than 300,000 applications for enrollment were received, and nearly two-thirds of them were denied. This collection includes enrollees who were found eligible for allotted land. If approved, the applicant would receive 160 acres for farming, 80 acres for cattle raising, or 40 acres to live on, and at the end of the allotment process, the recipient became a U.S. citizen.
The allotment greatly diminished Native American landholdings because following the allotment, lands left over were sold off. In addition, many members of the Five Civilized Tribes who received lands were forced to sell because they couldn’t make a go of it due to poor-quality land and/or a lack of resources.
Tips for Using this Collection
- If you don’t find your ancestor in this collection, try searching the U.S., Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes, 1896. The applications in that collection were declared invalid by the Curtis Act of 1898, but they still include personal details that will help with your family history research. Your ancestor may not have bothered to reapply after their first application.
- Search for your ancestor in the citizenship enrollment cards, sometimes referred to as census cards, which were prepared by the Dawes Commission.
- If your ancestors were Eastern Cherokee, check the U.S., Cherokee Baker Roll and Records, 1924–1929. Applications of the Eastern Band of North Carolina Cherokees who remained in North Carolina after the forced removal of most of the Cherokee tribe can be found in that collection.
- The final membership rolls were compiled from accepted applications. These final records, commonly referred to as the “Dawes Rolls,” can be found in the U.S., Native American Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898–1914. Some tribes use the Dawes Rolls as the basis for enrollment to this day.