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Allotment and The Opening of Indian Land to Homesteaders

Page history last edited by mkohl@mt.gov 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Many nineteenth-century reformers supported the General Allotment Act (also known as the Dawes Act), one of the most controversial laws in American Indian history. Promoted as a reform that would help Indians assimilate into Euro-American culture, the Dawes Act provided for reservation lands to be allotted (divided up) into individual parcels and given to heads of households. The "surplus" land was then often sold to non-Indians. Was the Dawes Act primarily an attempt at reform, a compromise, or a land grab? White political leaders, like Joseph Dixon, believed that allotment was important for Montana's economic development. But Indian leaders reacted to the Dawes Act by trying protect as much land as possible for their own people.  Allotment happened in different ways, at different times on Montana's reservations, but there is no doubt that its implementation was always a turning point.


Secondary Sources


Montana: Stories of the Land (Helena, MT, 2008), 219-22, 255 (good brief background)


Burton Smith, "The Politics of Allotment: The Flathead Indian Reservation as a Test Case," Pacific Northwest Quarterly 70, 3 (July 1979, 131-40, reprinted by Salish Kootenai Press, 1995.


Hoxie, Frederick, Parading through History: The Making of the Crow Nation in America, 1805-1935. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995


Janet A. McDonnell, The Dispossession of the American Indian, 1887-1934 (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1991).


Rose Stremlau, “To Domesticate and Civilize Wild Indians”: Allotment and the Campaign to Reform Indian Families, 1875-1887 Journal of Family History 30 (2005): 265-286 


"Allotment Act placed Indians in unfamiliar territory," Missoulian, September 25, 2010


"Flathead Reservation marks century of white settlement," Missoulian, September 26, 2010


Primary Sources at the Montana Historical Society

"A Threatened Raid on the Crow Indian Lands," Indian Rights Association, 1916 (M 970.5)


Primary and Secondary Sources on the Web


Central Classified Files 1907-1939 Flathead Agency 054 Record Group 75 National Archives and Records Administration Washington DC, digitized as part of the Natives of Montana Archival Project (NOMAP) http://cdm16013.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15018coll44/id/99926 


"Allotment Data," Native American Documents Project


"Hearings before the Committee on Indian Affairs United States Senate ... On the Bill S. 2963 for the survey and allotment of Indian lands now embraced within the limits of the Crow Indian Reservation..." (60th Cong., 1st Sess., Doc. No. 445, 1908)   (Search the term "allotment") 


"Indian Policy Reform: Extract from President Chester Arthur's First Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1881" 


"The Dawes Act, February 8, 1887," Archives of the West.


Chief Charlo biography 


The Allotment Act on the Flathead Indian Reservation, a video produced by Salish Kootenai College (17 minutes)


"Homesteading," Montana Mosaic (16 minute video)


"Some of the Last Free Government Homestead Land: The Flathead Reservation," Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Digital Collection, http://content.lib.umt.edu/cdm/ref/collection/mlrbm/id/2421



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