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Dawes Commission Enforces Curtis Act

1898

The Dawes Commission of 1893 was established by the U.S. Congress to prepare the way to dissolve tribal government and reassigning tribal lands to individual ownership. By 1898, Indian tribes were governed by federal law. The Dawes Allotment Act and the Curtis Act enabled the federal government to set up courts and enforce federal laws in Oklahoma Indian Territory.

These were novel ideas to the Indian tribes who believed all land was held in common as tribal property. Each member of the tribe was allowed to use any amount he felt he needed. Some tribal members had cattle ranches that used thousands of acres. Others cultivated only ten acres.

To receive an allotment of land provided for in the Acts, Indians needed to enroll with the Dawes Commission, by tribe. Smaller tribes who considered themselves to be separate and unique tribes, were enrolled with larger tribes. One such tribe was the Yuchi (Euchee) tribe. The Yuchi tribe was enrolled with the Muscogee Creek tribe as Creek Indian.

Not all Indians enrolled, however. Some tribal members renounce their Indian identity. Some protested by not enrolling because they did not want allotment of tribal lands.

Allotments of approximately 160 acres were made to all members of the Creek Nation, their descendants and all newborn. Freedmen who were previously slaves of the Creek Nation, were allotted the same. A cluster of land, known as the Snake Creek community, near Leonard Mountain was allotted to newborn Freedmen.

The Curtis Act of 1898 provided for the incorporation of towns. It gave townsmen the right to vote and authorized free public schools. During the allotment process, approximately 30 town sites in the Creek Nation were surveyed. The resulting towns were considered government towns.

Bixby was one of the government towns. It was a common practice for towns and post offices to be named for a well known person. Bixby was named for retiring Tams Bixby, vice chairman and acting chairman of the Dawes Commission. Tams Bixby, a Minnesotan, never lived in the town that bore his name. However, he did visit his namesake, occasionally.

Money from the sale of government town lots went into the general fund of the Creek Nation. In addition, Indians were allowed to start their own town on their allotted property. The 1890 US Census shows 48 towns in Creek Nation.

By 1900, Indian Territory had many more towns and approximately 400,000 people, six times as many non-Indians as Indians. With the population growing, statehood was imminent. A proposal was presented to Congress to make Indian Territory the state of Sequoyah. However, that proposal failed. Congress chose to adopt Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory as one state.

For more information refer to the following web sites:

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Snakes & Scribes by Kent Carter
Dawes Commission
Dawes Act of 1887
Burke Act of 1906
Indian Reorganization Act of 1934
Henry L. Dawes
Don Wise Historical Documents
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