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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1904, Part II
([1904])

Report of the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes,   pp. 1-198 ff. PDF (110.1 MB)


Page 4

REPORT OF THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR. 
association with the white race changed the blood, conditions, habits, 
and attributes of their original state. So much has this been the 
effect, even upon the remaining full-blood Indians, that we have 
never seen or heard of a wigwam or blanket Indian in the Territory. 
When these people finally came West in the second quarter of the 
past century many of their kindred remained in Georgia, North Caro- 
lina, East Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and other portions of 
the older sections of our country. After the civil war there was a 
large migration from those sections to this Territory. Many people 
of the best families of the South, having a trace of Indian blood, 
came here to make a new start in life, and, proving their rights as 
provided by the tribal laws, they were recognized as citizens of the 
tribes and allowed to partake, equally with the others, of all the bene-
fits of the tribal status and estates. These "tribes,", then, instead
of 
being tribes as commonly known, are better understood if viewed as 
communities or corporations or large families with great undivided 
estates. 
As to their lands, they were not held or occupied as we hold ours 
nor in any way with which most of our people are familiar. Gener- 
ally Indian land is a hunting ground or public range. Here nearly 
all of the good land-and millions of acres of it are unsurpassed in 
fertility and beauty-has long been under fence and covered with the 
homes and other improvements of the people. And as to our own 
method, we are accustomed to the taking up of public domain by 
homesteading and purchase, where the land is previously unoccu- 
pied, and the settler, as a rule, takes a given acreage regardless of its
grade, location, or value. But here, also, the chief conditions are 
reversed. The land belonged to the community, it is true, but, as 
shown, the good land was mostly occupied; and it was occupied, not 
by squatters or by those who encroached upon the public domain, as 
would be the case with us, but it was occupied according to law, a 
member of the tribe having the right, following their old custom, to 
control all the land he put under fence, the title to the land being 
still vested in the tribe, but the title to the improvements was vested 
in the citizen occupant of the land. 
Consequently, when Congress ordered the partition of these tribal 
estates it did not order that the land be allotted to individuals, and 
that patents be issued therefor, regardless of the location, character, 
and value of the land, as we dispose of our land, whether by sale or 
grants for homesteads. Neither did it disregard the novel improve- 
ment rights, lawfully acquired, of the individual members of the 
tribes. Nor did it throw open the doors to all claimants and dissi- 
pate the estates of these tribes by saying that an equal portion of 
land should be given to all who might apply. 
Upon the contrary, Congress directed that these estates be divided 
as nearly as possible as estates are divided in the States. Lands were 
to be allotted so as to give all the allottees of a tribe tracts of equal
value; individual ownership of improvements was to be determined 
and the rights of the owner were to be regarded; every claimant of 
membership was required to establish the right and justice of his 
claim, and provision was made for the determination of disputes and 
contests as to the ownership of improvements and the occupancy of 
land. 
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