On February 8, 1887, the Dawes Act (Dawes General Allotment Act) was enacted by the U.S. Congress regarding the distribution of land to Native American Indians in Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma.
Senator Henry Laurens Dawes (October 30, 1816 – February 5, 1903) pushed in Congress for the passage in 1887 of the General Allotment Act of 1887 (Dawes Act), ch. 119, 24 Stat. 388, 25 U.S.C. § 331 – The Dawes Act was amended in 1891 and again in 1906 by the Burke Act. The act remained in effect until 1934.
The act provided for the division of tribally held lands into individually-owned parcels and opening “surplus” lands to settlement by non-Indians and development by railroads.
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By dividing Native American Indian reservation lands into privately-owned parcels, legislators hoped to complete the assimilation process by forcing the deterioration of the communal lifestyle of Native American Indian societies and imposing Western-oriented values of strengthening the nuclear family and values of economic dependency strictly within this small household unit.
The land granted to most allottees was not sufficient for economic viability, and division of land between heirs upon the allottees’ deaths resulted in land fractionalization.
Most allotment land, which could be sold after a statutory period of 25 years, was eventually sold to non-Native buyers at bargain prices. Additionally, land deemed to be “surplus” beyond what was needed for allotment was opened to White settlers, though the profits from the sales of these lands were often invested in programs meant to aid Native American Indians.
The first people, Native American Indians lost, over the 47 years of the Act’s life, about 90 million acres (360,000 km²) of treaty land, or about two-thirds of the 1887 land base. About 90,000 Native American Indians were made landless.
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“They claim this mother of ours, the Earth, for their own use, and fence their neighbors away from her, and deface her with their buildings and their refuse.”
SOURCE: Based on Materials of The Dawes General Allotment Act from Wikipedia., Lic. CC BY-SA 3.0