University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1903, Part II

Report of the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes,   pp. 1-190 ff. PDF (101.5 MB)

Page 6

criticisms heaped upon the Commission that at one time there seemed 
to be no doubt of success for those who favored this policy. But in 
what may be deemed a fortunate hour it was decide&not to act without
giving a chance to the special representatives of the Government to 
be heard, both in their own defense and with respect to what course 
should be adopted. This led to such a revelation of slander, corrup- 
tion, and oppression that Congress immediately passed the Curtis Act, 
and it has been followed by prompt appropriations for its execution, 
aniounting now to nearly $1,000,000. 
That act undertook, not to let anybody and everybody come forward 
and take public land, but to administer upon five great estates, aggre- 
gating 20,000,000 acres. It ordered these estates to be partitioned 
among the individual heirs upon the principle of equal value; and it 
could hardly have done less, and at our expense, under the stipulations 
of treaties. 
Nor was it a disposition of wild lands, or of lands of uniform value. 
It related to vast tracts, covered by the homes and other improvements 
of a great population, threaded in every direction with railroads, filled
with villages and large towns of the most modern character, and with- 
out a wigwam or a blanket Indian within the limits of the Territory. 
It was a vast and difficult undertaking; and no previous disposition 
of either lands or tribes afforded precedents for guidance. 
Manifestly two indispensable duties lay at the very beginning of the 
First, to determine who were the bona fide citizens or heirs entitled 
to inherit these properties; and second, to take an inventory of the 
properties to be divided. 
When these two tasks had been performed as to any tribe, then 
only was it possible to begin the intelligent and equitable division of 
its estate. There was practically nothing to go upon in either instance,
and the whole work had to be done from the beginning. 
In determining the heirs, the Commission has heard and passed upon 
the individual applications of more than 200,000 claimants; and of this 
number some 128,000 have been so disposed of *ince the passage of the 
Curtis Act. All of these cases had to be made matters of record, 
many of them involving hundreds and sbme of them thousands of pages 
of evidence and pleading; and of the total number more than half 
have been rejected as not entitled to share in the properties of the 
In valuing the properties for distribution, every 40 acres has had to 
be located, classed and platted, making some 500,000 separate items of 
property to be so treated; and it has been necessary to locate by care- 
ful surveys the homes and improvements of the people upon.many 
millions of acres in order to get their correct land numbers and thus 
enable them to secure the lands they wish and retain possession of 
their homes as required by law. They had settled and lived for nearly 
three-quarters of a century with no regard for survey lines, and with 
no records such as we have in the States and in the other Territories. 
All this had to be done, and all this and much more has been done 
since the 28th of June, 1898. At tiihes the Commission has had in its 
employ as many as 500 clerks, surveyors, surveyors' assistants, land 
appraisers, teamsters, and laborers engaged in the work outlined and 
in the platting, roll making, and other work incident to such an under- 

Go up to Top of Page