Indian Policy of 1880-1887

An Indian is a person within the meaning of the laws of the United States. This decision of Judge Dundy, of the United States District Court for Nebraska, has not been reversed; still, by law and the Interior Department, the Indian is considered a ward of the nation and is so treated. Under the Indian policy of 1880-1887 till Indians were to be placed on reservations and rations were to be issued on certain reservations at stated times. All the Indians were not, however, subsisted by government, Absence from, the distribution must be accounted for. Farming, manufacturing, and herding were to be encouraged as far as possible, so as to make the Indians self-supporting. Games having almost wholly disappeared, industrial pursuits were considered absolutely necessary. To this end farming implements, tools, and cattle were purchased and placed in charge of the Indians, under direction of the agents. Education, cleanliness, thrift, and morality were also taught and enforced. Monogamy was insisted upon. Clothing was furnished under regulations of the Indian department. Schools for the young and medical attendance were provided by the government, and the religious denominations were free to teach their creeds. It was the policy of Congress that the Indians should become citizens of the United States upon renouncing their tribal relations. Depredations upon whites by Indians were compensated for out of annuities or trust funds. The benefit of the Indian homestead law was also extended to the Indians, but the land so acquired could not be alienated for 25 years without the consent of a United States judge. No tribal government was recognized. Appointment or election of chiefs was to be approved, by the agent or department. The Indian was to be controlled as a person by the national authorities.

Indian courts for offenses loss than felonies were established on reservations, along with a competent Indian police force. Supplies, purchased in open market at Now York and St. Louis from the lowest bidders, were distributed by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

Allotment became at policy after the act of February 8, 1887 (24 United States Statutes, 388), although allotments of specific holdings of lands to Indians had often been made by law before this date. This act did not apply to the lands of the Six Nations of New York, The Five Civilized Tribes, three tribes in Indian Territory, and one tribe in Nebraska, adjoining the Pine Ridge, reservation in South Dakota.

Present Indian Policy

Tho reservation Indians, 133,447 in number, are located in 20 states and territories and from about, 147 tribes or parts of tribes, occupying according to the report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1800, about 78,500,000 acres of unallotted land in all, but much of the area of these reservations is desert land, These reservations are embraced with agencies, and the actual agencies, 54 in number, are each controlled by an agent appointed by the President, with a complete civic administration, physicians (not in all cases), clerks, school teachers, farmers, and mechanics. There are about 3,000 white civil employees on these reservations. Some agencies, however, are controlled by officers of the army with a force of soldiers, the civic, administration proving ineffective, Minor offenses are tried by a “court of Indian offences”, the judges of which are selected by the agent, and are Indians; they receive no compensation for their services. The Indian police force consists in all of 770 Indian policemen, including officers. The members of the police force are loyal and true, and are a great aid to the agent. Rations are issued under agreements or treaties to poor and destitute Indians and to those located on desert lands.

The several policies of the United States in relation to the Indian prior to 1800 have resolved themselves into three specific features, as follows:

  1. Allotment of Indians on definite areas of land, thereby destroying the reservation.
  2. General education of Indians, whether citizens, self-supporting, dependent, reservation, or tribal.
  3. Enlistment of reservation Indians as soldiers in the regular army, both in the cavalry and infantry.

The first two features originated with the civil side of Indian administration and the last, with the War Department.

The number of allotments to June 1, 1890, was 15,166. 1 The Indians by the allotment law of 1887 received the following areas of land: to each head of a family, male or female, 160 acres; to each single person over 18 years of age, 80 acres; to each orphan child under 18 years of age, 80 acres; to each child under 18 years of age, 40 acres, and the same to children born prior to the date of allotment (treaty provisions, however, waive the above). Where the land was only fit for grazing double: the quantity was given. Where the area of land in a reservation was not sufficient to allot according to the above allowances then it was to ho allotted pro rata. The patents for allotted lands are hold in trust by the United States and they are inalienable for 25 years.

Amended Allotment Law

To cure the defects or the original allotment law the act, following was passed by the Fifty-second Congress. It gives the same quantity of land to all located Indians. The area of allotment on agricultural land is fixed at 80 acres and on grazing land at 160 acres, The act, provides for land for the squaw wife as well as other members of a family, and also contains a provision for leasing allotted land when allottees are disabled front occupancy by age or disability. This leasing must be done under authority of the Secretary of the interior on application. This feature of the law furnishes but little relief unless the word “disability” shall be hold to include incapacity to farm by reason of ignorance of the calling, lack of tools, seed, and horses or oxen. The Canadian system is much preferable to this, as in that system the judge of the district in which the land lies has charge of the leasing, and it thus becomes on record in the local courts. The Secretary of the Interior at Washington is far removed from the Indian lands; besides, this clause looks to a long control of the Indians by the nation.

An act to amend and further extend the benefits of the art approved February eighth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven entitled An act to provide for the allotment of land in severalty to Indians on the various reservations, and to extend the protection of the laws of the United States over the Indians, and for other purposes”.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that section one of the act entitled “An act to provide for the allotment of lands in severalty to Indians on the various reservations and to extend the protection of the laws of the United States and the territories over the Indians, and for other purposes”, approved February eighth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven, be and the same is hereby, amended so as to read as follows:

protection of the laws of the United States and the territories over the Indians, and for other purposes”, approved February eighth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven, be, and the same is hereby, amended so as to read as follows:

Section 1. That in all cases where any tribe or band of Indians has been, or shall hereafter be, located. upon any reservation created for their use, either by treaty stipulation or by virtue of an act of Congress or executive order setting apart the same for their use, the President of tho United. States be, and he hereby is, authorized, whenever in his opinion any reservation, or any part thereof, of such Indians is advantageous for agricultural or grazing purposes, to cause said reservation, or any part thereof, to be surveyed, or resurveyed, if necessary, and to allot to each Indian located thereon one-eighth of a section of land: Provided, that in case there is not sufficient land in any of said reservations to allot lands to each individual in quantity as above provided the land in such reservation or reservations shall be allotted to each individual pro rata, as near as may be, according to legal subdivisions: Provided further, That where the treaty or act of Congress setting apart such reservation provides for the allotment of lands in severalty to certain classes in quantity in excess of that herein provided the President, in making allotments upon such reservations, shall allot the land to each individual Indian of said classes belonging thereon in quantity as specified in such treaty or act, and to other Indians belonging thereon in quantity as herein provided: Provided further, That where existing, agreements or laws provide for allotments in accordance with the provisions of said act of February eighth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven, or in quantities substantially as herein provided, allotments may be made in quantity as specified in this act, with the consent of the Indians, expressed in such manner as the President, in his discretion, may require: And provided further, That when the lands allotted, or any legal subdivision thereof, are only valuable for grazing purposes, such lands shall be allotted in double quantities”.

Sec. 2. That where allotments have been made in whole or in part upon any reservation under the provisions of said act of February eighth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven, and the quantity of land in such reservation is sufficient to give each member of the tribe eighty acres, such allotments shall be revised and equalized under the provisions of this act: Provided, that in allotment heretofore approved by the Secretary of the Interior shall be reduced in quantity.

Sec. 3. That whenever it shall he made to appear to the Secretary of the Interior that, by reason of age or other disability, any allottee under the provisions of said act or any other act or treaty can not personally and with benefit to himself occupy or improve his allotment or any part thereof the same time be leased upon such terms, regulations, and conditions as shall be prescribed by such Secretary, for a term not exceeding three years for farming or grazing, or ten years for mining purposes: Provided, That where lands are occupied by Indians who have bought and paid for the same, and which lands are not needed for farming or agricultural purposes, and are not desired for individual allotments, the same may be leased by authority of the council speaking for such Indians, for a period not to exceed five years for grazing, or ten years for mining purposes, in such quantities and upon such terms and conditions as the agent in charge of such reservation may recommend, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior.

Sec 4. That where any Indian entitled to allotment under existing laws shall make settlement upon any surveyed. or unsurveyed lands of the United States not otherwise appropriated, he or she shall be entitled, upon application to the local land office for the district in which the lands are located, to have the some allotted to him or her and to his or her children, in quantities and manner as provided in the foregoing section of this amending act for Indians residing upon reservations; and when such settlement is made upon unsurveyed lands and grant to such. Indians shall be adjusted upon the survey of the lands so as to conform thereto; and patents shall be issued to them for such lands in the manner and with the restrictions provided in the act to which this is an amendment; and the fees to which the officers of such local land office would have been entitled had such lands been entered under the general laws for the disposition of the public lands shall be paid to them from any moneys in the treasury of the United States not otherwise appropriated, upon to statement of an account in their behalf for such fees by the Commissioner of the General Land office, and a certification of such account to the Secretary of the Treasury by the Secretary of the Interior.

Sue. 5. That for the purpose of determining the descent of land to the heirs of any deceased Indian under the provisions of the fifth section of said act, whenever any male and female Indian shall have cohabited together as husband and wife according to the custom and manner of Indian life, the issue of such cohabitation shall be, for the purpose aforesaid, taken and deemed to be the legitimate issue of the Indians so living together, and every Indian child, otherwise illegitimate, shall for such purpose he taken and deemed to be the legitimate issue of the father of such child: Provided, That the provisions of this act shall not be held or construed as to apply to the lands commonly called and known as the “Cherokee Outlet:” And provided further, that no allotment of lands shall he made or annuities of money paid to any of the Sac and Fox of the Missouri Indians who were not enrolled as members of said tribe on January first, eighteen hundred and ninety; but this shall not be held to impair or otherwise affect the rights or equities of any person whose claim to membership in said tribe is now pending and being investigated.

Approved February 28, 1891.

After allotment the residue of the land in the reservations is sold to the nation for from 75 cents to $1.25 per acre, and then sold by the acre to actual settlers, who are privileged to enter on it at a date given under the protection of the army, directed by the Secretary of the Interior. At a signal, usually the firing of a cannon, the land hunters, men and women, rush over the line and squat on a tract of land, and then besiege the United States land office to enter the same. The allotted Indians, frequently in blankets, and speaking no English, stand by and watch this busy scene, and wonder what into come next.

The area surrendered to the nation by allotted Indians in the year ending June 10, 1890, including agreements waiting ratification by Congress, was 17,400,000 acres, this being the excess of reservation lands above the specific allotment to the Indians; but the land, as a whole, is probably the most worthless of any government lands called agricultural, arid, or arable.

The desires of white men for the Indian’s land, in many cases, have had more to do with Indian allotment than the favorable condition of the Indian for it or the character of the land on which he is allotted. Allotment of lands to Indians should be the result of certain favorable renditions preceding it. It was intended to be a deliberate act following favorable wardship.

Allotment of lands to Indians presents many difficulties for the future. The Indians on reservations in the arid belt live near water holes or along streams. Of these water holes and streams the Indians know the value. What cattle and horses they have range on the large area of arid lands adjoining, browsing on the scant grass and coining o the water at stated periods. Allotment of small areas of land, 80 acres to heads of families, and so on, deprives the Indians of the portions of the reservations best fitted for cultivation, as, after allotment, the lands remaining go to the government for sale or disposition when the land laws are extended over them. It may virtually end Indian herding, because the protection now given the Indian through the Indian agent and reservation laws will be gone, and the whites can encroach upon the land and use it for their cattle.

The Indian once allotted is confined to a definite space; he is the holder of a tract of land by order of the government, and to the land he has no present; fee.

The Indian allottees, male or female, by operations of the law, pass into the citizenship of the United States and of the states and territories in where they reside.

  1. At the Liao Mohouk conference, Ulster County, New York, October 12, 1892, Hon, T. J. Morgan stated that there had been 30,738 Indian allotments; that those to whom allotments were about, to be made numbered 26,601; that the allotting agent were already in the field allotting them, and 25,650 were receiving their allotments; in all, 81,344 allotments, which may be regarded for all purposes accomplished. From this all the allotments to Indians could be accomplished in 3 or 4 years.[]

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894.

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