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 1904, Part II

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

Page 5

Under these conditions we were confronted at the threshold of the 
work by the necessity, before the actual work of allotment could even 
begin, of having to do three things in connection with each tribe: 
First, to secure a correct list or roll, down to the dates required, of 
the membership of the tribes. Second, to make a complete and accu- 
rate inventory of the extent and value of its property; and, as the 
estates had to be divided in kind, the properties of course had to be 
valued in sufficient detail to permit of their being cut up into por- 
tions of distributable size. Third, the improvements of the people 
had to be located according to section and subsection lines, in order 
that their ownership and occupancy rights might be regarded as 
required by law. 
How were the lists or rolls of membership to be got? The tribal 
rolls already in existence were most of them old, and besides they 
were so honeycombed with fraud that the whole question was 
ordered by Congress to be gone over and determined anew. Had 
written applications been allowed, and personal appearance and 
examination dispensed with, the labor of the task would have been 
greater than it has been and frauds would have been greater than 
As it was, every adult or head of a family in a total of more than 
200,000 citizens and claimants was personally examined and his pre- 
vious tribal record was looked up. Of this number, and in this way, 
more than 120,000 have been examined since June 28, 1898. The 
proceedings were all taken down, especially as every case could be 
carried to Washington on appeal, and often the record of a single 
case was hundreds of pages in extent. Of the above number of peo- 
ple, approxinately 90,000 will be finally adjudged to lawfully pos- 
sess tribal membership and property rights; and it can readily 
be seen how a less careful course of procedure would have utterly dis- 
sipated the properties of the tribes. 
As to the appraisement of the land, it was thought that tracts of 
40 acres, or a quarter of a quarter of a section, was as small a division
as could reasonably he made the subject of personal inspection. This 
acreage was adopted as the unit in determining the grade and value of 
land; but even this required the locating, inspecting, classifying, and 
valuing of nearly 500,000 tracts of land. 
As for safeguarding the occupancy and improvement rights of the 
people, their houses, barns, fences, and other improvements had to be 
located by actual surveys and with minute accuracy. This was ren- 
dered the more necessary by the fact that here the people never 
located their improvements with reference to section lines as we do. 
Perhaps hardly a man in the Territory knew the sectional divisions 
of his farm or the sectional location of a single one of his improve- 
ments, and hence there was no-source of accurate information respect- 
ing these matters except the surveys and location of improvements 
made by the Commission. 
We said that three things were necessary to be done before the 
actual work of allotment could even begin; but there was a fourth. 
and that was the platting and orderly arrangement of the mass of 
testimony and data accumulated in the proceedings stated. 
It may also be remarked that the law governing this business was 
not all passed at one time. It has often been added to and changed, 

Go up to Top of Page