Where was your family’s land allotment and why you should care.


Many families falsely believe their ancestors were not on the Dawes rolls. By accepting this mistake as a historical fact they not only lose benefits for themselves but for all their descendants. Here is why you may need to let us help you with your family tree research.  The United States government attempted to finally destroy tribal governments through the 1887 Dawes Act.  Tribal lands that had been held in common by the tribe were divided into smaller parcels and granted as homesteads to individual members. The Dawes roll is a final list of those individuals who were approved to receive an allotment of land in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). It includes Cherokee by blood, marriage, intermarriage, and Black Cherokee (Freedmen).

Allottees were declared “incompetent” to handle their land affairs and the United States would retain legal title to the land as trustee for the Cherokee family member; the Cherokee “owner” only had beneficial  title. In other words, as long as the allotment was held in trust by the federal government, the Cherokee landholder could use the land but not sell it or lease it without the federal government’s approval.  This link opens our list of land allotment maps .

In 2010 a class action suit was settled over claims that the government did not pay Native peoples for money derived from these lands that the government held in trust. The $4.3 billion Cobell Settlement provided for one-time payments to Cherokee descendants (and other tribes) who had an individual interest in land held in trust or restricted status by the government.

At this time, there are over 30,000 people  who are designated as “Whereabouts Unknown” and thousands more whose addresses on record with the Claims Administrator are not current.

This month in another case, the Obama administration has agreed to pay $940 million to tribes for failing to compensate them for services that they carried out.

Simple mistakes such as the one below (Peter Smith was an intermarried white Cherokee!) can make searching for Dawes roll ancestors more difficult. This is why we offer unlimited research assistance for a one time fee of only $39.

Peter Smith Choctaw Cherokee