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Many Americans believe they have Native American or American Indian heritage.  The five largest southeastern tribes, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole are often referred to as the "Five Civilized Tribes".   Before 1896, the Indian nations had jurisdiction over their own citizenship  and other who were allowed to live and work in tribal territory.  In 1893 Congress legislated the formation of a commission to "negotiate agreements with the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole tribes providing for the dissolution of tribal governments and the allotment of land to each tribal member."  The commission was called the Dawes Commission after its chairman, Senator Henry L. Dawes of Massachusetts.   Later the Commission prepared citizenship rolls of the members of each tribe.  Between 1898 and 1907, the Commission received more than 250,000 applications for tribal membership and just over 100,000 were accepted.  Tribal Citizens were categorized into following groups:

  • Tribal Citizen by blood
  • Tribal Citizen by marriage
  • Minor Citizen by blood, enrolled beginning in 1907
  • Newborn Citizen by blood, enrolled beginning in 1905
  • Freedman (former black slaves of Indian slaveholders)
  • Delaware Indians, granted Cherokee citizenship
To learn more about the Dawes Rolls click here!

Source:  The Genealogist's Companion and Sourcebook, Emily Anne Croom