Dawes Commission and Allotment

Despite the assurances of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, Choctaw lands in the Indian Territory were not safe from pre-emption by the U.S. Government. Negotiations between U.S. Agents and the Choctaw government in Indian Territory for allotment of Choctaw Land in Indian Territory an opening of “surplus” lands for white settlement began in 1893. To affect its aim of allowing white settlement of the Territory, the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes was created by congress. This body, commonly called the Dawes Commission for the name of its chairman, Henry Dawes, was created to negotiate with the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks and Seminoles for the division of their land in the Indian Territory and for the division of their land in the Indian Territory and for the allotment of individual tracts of one-quarter section to each Indian head of family.

The land remaining was to be sold to white settlers. The Choctaws were to retain an interest in the lands that contained their natural resources (coal and asphalt).

In connection with obtaining these resources, it became necessary to create a roll of all the members of the Choctaw tribe in Oklahoma. The minutes of the enrolling authorities and the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes (and the records of the U.S. district courts that adjudicated contested enrollment) became a comprehensive record that continues to be used by contemporary tribes for enrollment and legal purposes.

An index to the rolls that were created by the Dawes commission is available for sale from the National Archives but is also found in many libraries and state archives.

Individual and family case records are housed in the Ft. Worth, Texas Branch of the U.S. Archives. If you find a name of one of your ancestors on the Dawes Roll, you may obtain a copy of the file concerning the ancestor by requesting it from the Fort Worth branch of the Archives.

The file normally contains an enrollment card which lists all family members, their relationship to the head of family, a blood quantum of each family, their residence (by district of the Choctaw Nation), and it may contain testimony given to the Dawes Commission concerning the family. Other material concerning the individual case may also be found in the file.