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Two amendments to the General Allotment Act (also known as the "Dawes Act" or the " Dawes Severalty Act") passed by the United States in 1887. The act's stated purpose was to create individual parcels of (tribal) land and give them out to Indians. This was meant to transform them from "Indians" into American "citizen farmers." The idea behind this was that it would be easier and more cost effective in the long run to "assimilate" the Indian into American culture with its religion (read: Christianity) and values. It would also break up the tribal structure and unity.

The result was that after allotments were given out, leftover land was considered "surplus" and offered for sale to non-Indians. This ended in the loss of nearly 100 million acres (from lands already "shrunk" due to removals, treaties, extermination, and disease) between 1887 and the act's repeal in 1934. In fact, about the only result was that the Indian landbase was almost destroyed, families and tribes were broken up, and the previously owned land was now being settled and "improved" by non-Indians.

The two amendments made certain changes to the act. The 1891 amendment changed the amount of land from one-quarter section (160 acres) to one-eighth (80 acres)—though without changing previous allotments—and provided for their lease. The 1906, or "Burke Act," changed the twenty-five year period discretionary to the Secretary of the Interior. Now if he determined that an Indian is "competent and capable of managing his or her affairs" the land could be released from trust. It also provided that if the Indian died before the end of the trust, the Secretary of the Interior could either determine the heirs and issue patents to them or allow the land to be sold and the "purchaser or purchasers" given the patent (the proceeds of which might go to the heirs).

Full discussion of the Act, its background, details, and results: the Dawes Severalty Act
Full text of the Act: General Allotment Act

(Sources: see the Dawes Severalty Act, text of the amendments comes from www.csusm.edu/nadp/index.html)


Act of 1891

An act to amend and further extend the benefits of the act approved February eighth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven, entitled "An act to provide for the allotment of land in severalty to Indians on the various reservations, and to extend the protection of the laws of the United States over the Indians, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section one of the act entitled "An act to provide for the allotment of lands in severally to Indians on the various reservations, and to extend the protection of the laws of the United States and the Territories over the Indians, and for other purposes," approved February eighth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven, be, and the same is hereby, amended so as to read as follows:

"Sec. 1.
That in all cases where any tribe or band of Indians has been, or shall hereafter be, located upon any reservation created for their use, either by treaty stipulation or by virtue of an Act of Congress or Executive order setting apart the same for their use, the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, authorized, whenever in his opinion any reservation, or any part thereof, of such Indians is advantageous for agricultural or grazing purposes, to cause said reservation, or any part thereof, to be surveyed, or resurveyed, if necessary, and to allot to each Indian located thereon one-eighth of a section of land:

Provided, That in case there is not sufficient land in any of said reservations to allot lands to each individual in quantity as above provided the land in such reservation or reservations shall be allotted to each individual pro rata, as near as may be, according to legal subdivisions:

Provided further, That where the treaty or act of Congress setting apart such reservation provides for the allotment of lands in severalty to certain classes in quantity in excess of that herein provided the President, in making allotments upon such reservation, shall allot the land to each individual Indian of said classes belonging thereon in quantity as specified in such treaty or act, and to other Indians belonging thereon in quantity as herein provided:

Provided further, That where existing agreements or laws provide for allotments in accordance with the provisions of said act of February eighth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven, or in quantities substantially as therein provided, allotments may be made in quantity as specified in this act, with the consent of the Indians, expressed in such manner as the President, in his discretion, may require:

And provided further, That when the lands allotted, or any legal subdivision thereof, are only valuable for grazing purposes, such lands shall be allotted in double quantities."

Sec. 2.
That where allotments have been made in whole or in part upon any reservation under the provisions of said act of February eighth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven, and the quantity of land in such reservation is sufficient to give each member of the tribe eighty acres, such allotments shall be revised and equalized under the provisions of this act:

Provided, That no allotment heretofore approved by the Secretary of the Interior shall be reduced in quantity.

Sec. 3.
That whenever it shall be made to appear to the Secretary of the Interior that, by reason of age or other disability, any allottee under the provisions of said act, or any other act or treaty can not personally and with benefit to himself occupy or improve his allotment or any part thereof the same may be leased upon such terms, regulations and conditions as shall be prescribed by such Secretary, for a term not exceeding three years for farming or grazing, or ten years for mining purposes:

Provided, That where lands are occupied by Indians who have bought and paid for the same, and which lands are not needed for farming or agricultural purposes, and are not desired for individual allotments, the same may be leased by authority of the Council speaking for such Indians, for a period not to exceed five years for grazing, or ten years for mining purposes in such quantities and upon such terms and conditions as the agent in charge of such reservation may recommend, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior.

Sec. 4.
That where any Indian entitled to allotment under existing laws shall make settlement upon any surveyed or unsurveyed lands of the United States not otherwise appropriated, he or she shall be entitled, upon application to the local land office for the district in which the lands are located, to have the same allotted to him or her and to his or her children, in quantities and manner as provided in the foregoing section of this amending act for Indians residing upon reservations; and when such settlement is made upon unsurveyed lands the grant to such Indians shall be adjusted upon the survey of the lands so as to conform thereto; and patents shall be issued to them for such lands in the manner and with the restrictions provided in the act to which this is an amendment. And the fees to which the officers of such local land office would have been entitled had such lands been entered under the general laws for the disposition of the public lands shall be paid to them from any moneys in the Treasury of the United States not otherwise appropriated, upon a statement of an account in their behalf for such fees by the Commissioner of the General Land Office, and a certification of such account to the Secretary of the Treasury by the Secretary of the Interior.

Sec. 5.
That for any purpose of determining the descent of land to the heirs of any deceased Indian under the provisions of the fifth section of said act, whenever any male and female Indian shall have cohabited together as husband and wife according to the custom and manner of Indian life the issue of such cohabitation shall be, for the purpose aforesaid, taken and deemed to be the legitimate issue of the Indians so living together, and every Indian child, otherwise illegitimate, shall for such purpose be taken and deemed to be the legitimate issue of the father of such child:

Provided, That tile provisions of this act shall not be held or construed as to apply to the lands commonly called and known as the "Cherokee Outlet":

And provided further, That no allotment of lands shall be made or annuities of money paid to any of the Sac and Fox of the Missouri Indians who were not enrolled as members of said tribe on January first, eighteen hundred and ninety; but this shall not be held to impair or otherwise affect the rights or equities of any person whose claim to membership in said tribe is now pending and being investigated.

Approved, February 28, 1891.

The Burke Act (1906)

An act to amend section six of an act approved February eighth, eighteen hundred and eight-seven, entitled "An act to provide for the allotment of lands in severalty to Indians on the various reservations, and to extend the protection of the laws of the United States and the Territories over the Indians, and for other purposes."

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section six of an act approved February eighth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven, entitled "An act to provide for the allotment of lands in severalty to Indians on the various reservations, and to extend the protection of the laws of the United States and the Territories over the Indians, and for other purposes," be amended to read as follows:

"Sec. 6
That at the expiration of the trust period and when the lands have been conveyed to the Indians by patent in fee, as provided in section five of this act, then each and every allottee shall have the benefit of and be subject to the laws, both civil and criminal, of the State or Territory in which they may reside; and no Territory shall pass or enforce any law denying any such Indian within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. And every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States to whom allotments shall have been made and who has received a patent in fee simple under the provisions of this act, or under any law or treaty, and every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States who has voluntarily taken up within said limits his residence, separate and apart from any tribe of Indians therein, and has adopted the habits of civilized life, is hereby declared to be a citizen of the United States, and is entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of such citizens, whether said Indian has been or not, by birth or otherwise, a member of any tribe of Indians within the territorial limits of the United States without in any manner impairing or otherwise affecting the right of any such Indian to tribal or other property:

Provided, That the Secretary of the Interior may, in his discretion, and he is hereby authorized, whenever he shall be satisfied that any Indian allottee is competent and capable of managing his or her affairs, at any time to cause to be issued to such allottee a patent in fee simple, and thereafter all restrictions as to sale, incumbrance, or taxation of said land shall be removed and said land shall not be liable to the satisfaction of any debt contracted prior to the issuing of such patent:

Provided further, That until the issuance of fee-simple patents all allottees to whom trust patents shall hereafter be issued shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States:

And provided further, That the provisions of this act shall not extend to any Indians in the Indian Territory."

That hereafter, when an allotment of land is made to any Indian and any such Indian dies before the expiration of the trust period, said allotment shall be canceled and the land shall revert to the United States, and the Secretary of the Interior shall ascertain the legal heirs of such Indian, and shall cause to be issued to said heirs and in their names, a patent in fee simple for said land, or he may cause the land to be sold as provided by law and issue a patent therefore to the purchaser or purchasers, and pay the net proceeds to the heirs, or their legal representatives, of such deceased Indian. The action of the Secretary of the Interior in determining the legal heirs of any deceased Indian, as provided herein, shall in all respects be conclusive and final.

Approved; May 8, 1906.

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