Steven Newcomb: Allotment a massive grab of Indian lands

"In his Executive Order declaring November 2011 “Native American Heritage Month,” U.S. President Barack Obama said that his administration “recognizes the painful chapters in our shared history.” As a key part of that history, today marks the 125th year since the U.S. Congress passed the Dawes General Allotment Act in 1887.

Under that allotment legislation, for which there was no legitimate constitutional basis, Indian land holdings dropped from 138 million acres down to 48 million acres, for a loss to Indian nations of some 90 million acres of land. During a period of 47 years under the Act, some 60 percent of all Indian lands at that time are characterized as having passed to the United States, thereby resulted in tremendous boost to the economic growth of the U.S. economy.

Designed as part of a divide-and-conquer policy, the Allotment Act divided the total acreage of Indian reservation lands into 40, 80 or 160 acre parcels (a head of family would receive 160 acres, a single person or orphan over 18 years would receive 80 acres, and persons under the age of 18 would receive 40 acres). Reservation lands left over were designated ‘surplus’ lands and sold off to non-Indian ‘settlers.’"

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: The 1887 Dawes Act: The U.S. Theft of 90 Million Acres of Indian Land (Indian Country Today 2/8)

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