Understanding the 1817 Reservation Roll

The 1817 Reservation Roll is a listing of Cherokee Indians applying for a 640 acre tract in the East in lieu of removing to Arkansas. This was only good during their lifetime and then the property reverted back to the state. To fully understand this roll, please read the Cherokee Treaty of 1817.

The Reservation Roll is of Cherokee families who lived on the East side of the Mississippi River who did not wish to remove to Arkansas. Cherokee head-of-households wishing to remain in the East on a 640 acre plot of land requested enrollment – if their application was approved they would become US Citizens.

If the head-of-household should die, the land would go to their spouse, or child. If the family were to remove afterward the land would revert to the US government. To ensure that all allotted “reservations” were properly settled, the Cherokee applicants would participate in a Reservation Census in June of the following year, 1818.

Those Cherokee not applying to the Reservation Roll were required by the Cherokee Treaty of 1817 to remove to Arkansas. Those Cherokee that removed would also be accounted for in a US Government Census in June of 1818. The government would then have a complete census of the Cherokee people. Most Cherokee that applied for ‘reservations’ were denied, and required to remove to Arkansas under the supervision of a US Government official designated by the same.

An important historical fact concerning the Reservation Roll is that it was the first time land ownership in a tribe was allocated to individuals instead of a tribe as a whole. This was an entirely new thought for the Cherokee People.

Article 8.
And to each and every head of any Indian family residing on the east side of the Mississippi River, on the lands that are now or may hereafter be surrendered to the United States, who may wish to become citizens of the United States, the United States do agree to give a reservation 1 of six hundred and forty acres of land in a square to include their improvements which are to be as near the center thereof as practicable, in which they will have a life estate with a reversion in fee simple to their children reserving to the widow her dower, the register of whose names is to be filed in the office of the Cherokee agent, which shall be kept open until the census is taken as stipulated in the third article of this treaty. Provided, That if any of the heads of families, for whom reservations may be made, should remove there from, then, in that case the right to revert to the United States. And provided further, That the land which may be reserved under this article, be deducted from the amount which has been ceded under the first 2 and second 3 articles of this treaty.

This is only an index of applicants, the people listed here did not in most instances receive the reservation they requested.

Search the 1817 Cherokee Reservation Roll


  1. Reservation, during this period the land granted to a person was called a reservation.  Today we think of a reservation as a place that the entire tribe resides.[]
  2. The chiefs head men, and warriors, of the whole Cherokee nation do also cede to the United States all the lands lying north and west of the following boundary lines, viz: Beginning at the Indian boundary line that runs from the north bank of the Tennessee river, opposite to the mouth of Hywassee River, at a point on the top of Walden’s ridge, where it divides the waters of the Tennessee river from those of the Sequatchie River; thence, along the said ridge southwardly, to the bank of the Tennessee River, at a point near to a place called the Negro Sugar Camp, opposite to the upper end of the first island above Running Water town; thence, westwardly, a straight line to the mouth of Little Sequatchie River; thence, up said river, to its main fork, thence, up its northern most fork, to its source; and thence, due west to the Indian boundary line.[]
  3. It is also stipulated by the contracting parties, that a census shall be taken of the whole Cherokee nation, during the month of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighteen, in the following manner, viz: That the census of those on the east side of the Mississippi River, who declare their intention of remaining, shall be taken by a commissioner appointed by the President of the United States, and a commissioner appointed by the Cherokees on the Arkansas River; and the census of the Cherokees on the Arkansas River, and those removing there, and who, at that time, declare their intention of removing there, shall be taken by a commissioner appointed by the President of the United States, and one appointed by the Cherokees east of the Mississippi River.[]

Guide, Roll,

AccessGenealogy.com Native American Rolls.

2 thoughts on “Understanding the 1817 Reservation Roll”

  1. My wifes family has always spoke of an indian connection, They came to Ky in the middle 1800s and settled on the river. James Lowe was married, we believe, to a Martin of McMinn County area(Indian lands). Any help would appreciated.

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