After eight years of
negotiation and persuasion, the commission to the Five Civilized Tribes
finally succeeded in effecting an agreement with the Creek Nation,
providing for the allotment in severalty of Creek lands, which agreement
was approved by Act of Congress March 1, 1901, and ratified by the Creek
Council at Okmulgee June 25, 1901.
On the same date (March 1, 1901) Congress approved an
agreement of a similar character which the commission had concluded with
the authorities of the Cherokee Nation, but at a popular election called
by the Cherokee Council this agreement was rejected by a vote of 2,323
for, and 3,346 against its ratification.
However, on July 1, 1902, Congress passed another act
providing for the individual allotment of the lands of the Cherokee
Nation which was ratified by the Cherokees at an election held on August
7, 1902. The Kee-Too-Wah society of Cherokees, composed of full-bloods
who had unflinchingly opposed any change in tribal customs or modes of
living, refused to abide by the result of this election, and for many
succeeding years refused to accept the land which the Dawes Commission
arbitrarily allotted to them.
On March 3, 1901, Congress passed an act conferring
United States citizenship upon every Indian in Indian Territory.
The Creek agreement provided that their lands should be
appraised at their fair cash value regardless of improvements, and each
man, woman and child, including freedmen, was permitted to select 160
acres of any grade of land.
The lands were appraised at from 25 cents to $6.50 per
acre according to quality. Those who selected quarter sections of the
best grade, therefore, received $1,040 worth at the appraised value.
In order to equalize the value of allotments, it was
further provided that any citizen whose quarter section was of a lower
grade of land, would be entitled to receive the difference between the
appraised value of his land and $1,040 in cash from Creek funds, or he
might claim additional land to make up this difference. Each citizen was
required to select one forty-acre tract out of his allotment to be
designated as his homestead, for which he received a separate deed, and
which, for several years, he was not permitted to sell.
As soon as the Dawes Commission announced that it was ready to allot
lands there was a stampede of Indians and Negroes for the office of the
commission from all parts of the nation, each one apparently anxious to
secure the land which he had selected as a home, before some other
citizen should claim it. Many full-bloods, however, who had been
persistently opposed to the breaking up of tribal relations and,
especially, to the individual allotment of lands, refused to make any
selection of land, and the commission subsequently selected their lands
and issued certificates of allotment to them, some of whom returned
their certificates to the commission with the information that they
preferred to live as they had always lived. A few years later, however,
they reluctantly accepted their allotments.
Previous to this time numerous cattlemen, mostly white,
intermarried citizens, had held possession of large tracts of land
divided into pastures of perhaps a square mile each, and all
substantially enclosed by wire fencing. In order to retain control of
their ranches, they hauled wagon-loads of Indians and Negroes to
Muskogee, pitched their tents across the street from the commission's
headquarters and proceeded to have the Indians and Negroes in their
custody to select allotments in their large pastures. The cattlemen had
a previous agreement with such allottees by which they were able to
retain their pastures intact by paying the allottees 25 cents per acre,
annually, as rental.
Immediately following the issuance of allotment deeds,
and before the allottees were authorized to sell any part of the lands,
reckless land speculators began to take deeds from ignorant Indians and
Negroes, paying only a nominal consideration. Such buyers knew that
these deeds were not valid, but by taking possession of the land they
felt reasonably sure of holding it until their crops would reimburse
them for the nominal price they had paid for the land, and that their
possession and fraudulent deeds would give them a shadow of title which
they hoped to be able to perfect at some future time, and which they
fancied would keep other prospective buyers away.
The Government, however, prosecuted many suits to cancel these
fraudulent deeds and restore the allottees to the rightful possession of
their lands, and in the end, the "grafters" did not realize much profit
from their disreputable practices.
On April 21, 1904, Congress removed the
restrictions upon all adult allottees not of Indian blood, except as to
homesteads, which authorized each adult Negro and intermarried citizen
to sell all of his land except the homestead. The same act authorized
the Secretary of the Interior to remove the restrictions upon the sale
of land of any Indian, except as to homesteads, whenever such removal
was found to be to the best interest of the Indian.
The passage of this act was the signal for a lively
scramble among land buyers, for the Negroes and Indians had never before
been owners of real estate, had no conception of its value, and were
totally uninformed as to the value of real estate and as to the import
or significance of a warranty deed. In numerous instances Freedmen were
known to execute a half dozen or more deeds on the same land to as many
different purchasers, which, of course, resulted in numerous lawsuits
and complications of titles. Most of the Freedmen sold their land at
whatever price the buyer chose to offer, and soon squandered the
proceeds, but some of the more intelligent ones refused to sell and are
now in good circumstances. It was not unusual in those days, to see a
Negro, who had never before been able to own a $40 pony, drive down the
streets of Muskogee, with a new buggy, harness and team of horses, and
passersby would remark : "Another nigger has sold his land." Some of the
ignorant Negroes and. Indians who neglected to select their allotments
until after all the good land was taken, were compelled to accept
seemingly worthless lands out among the rocky hills, but by an
unexpected turn of the wheel of fortune quite a number of these poor
tracts have since been found to be underlaid with oil, and several of those ignorant, neglected allottees are today millionaires.
The most sweeping law which Congress has enacted
concerning the removal of restrictions upon the sale of Indian lands,
and which threw the greatest amount of land upon the market, was the
Act of May 27, 1908, which provided that all lands,
including homesteads, of intermarried whites, Freedmen, and Indians of
less than half-blood, including minors, and all lands, except
homesteads, of other allottees of less than three-quarters Indian blood,
should be free from all restrictions. This act left all such Indians and
Freedmen, who were adults, free to sell such lands, without consulting
the officials of the Interior Department.
The Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, providing for the
settlement of the affairs of the Cherokee Nation, gave to each citizen
110 acres of average land. Those who selected the best grade of land
received less, and those to whom were allotted the poorer grades
received more, in proportion to the appraised value, as determined by
the Dawes Commission.
This act provided that no white person who had
intermarried with a Cherokee citizen subsequent to December 16, 1895,
should be entitled to enrollment or to share in Cherokee property.
The final enrollment of Indian citizens shows that in
the Cherokee Nation there were 8,703 full-bloods; 1,803
three-fourths-blood or more ; 2,975 from one-half to three-fourths
blood; 23,424 less than half-bloods, including intermarried whites and
Of the Creeks there were 6,858 full-bloods; 541
three-fourths blood or more; 1,157 from one-half to three-fourths blood;
3,396 less than half-bloods and 6,809 Freedmen. The restricted Indians
(those who could not sell their lands except by consent of the Secretary
of the Interior) included all who were of one-half or more Indian blood.
Of the 13,481 restricted Cherokees enrolled, the restrictions have been
removed of about 6,000, either by death or by the Secretary of the
Of the 8,556 restricted Creeks, there are now remaining
The Cherokees had an estate of about 4,420,000 acres of
land to be divided, while the Creeks had about 3,080,000 acres.