Workshop on American Indian Topics & Genealogy

March 18, 2011 · Posted in Five Civilized Tribes · Comment 

Published Author, Certification in Archival Preservation and has done numerous lectures & presentations specializing in American Indian history.

William D. Welge, Certified Archivist & Historian
William D. Welge, Certified Archivist & Historian
OK Choctaw Tribal Alliance, Inc.

OK Choctaw Tribal Alliance, Inc.

Photo of speaking appearance at the OK Choctaw Tribal Alliance, Inc.
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Henry L. Dawes

February 26, 2011 · Posted in Five Civilized Tribes · Comment 

by William Welge, Oklahoma Historian & Author

When the name Henry L. Dawes comes up few know much about him except for the hundreds of thousands of American Indians whose lives were forever changed by this man.

Born in Cummington, Massachusetts October 30, 1816, Dawes was well educated. He  practiced law and was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. After serving as U.S. Attorney for a period of time, Dawes was elected to Congress in 1857 and continued to serve in Congress until 1875 at which time he was elected to the United States Senate.

In 1887, Senator Dawes authored the landmark (pun intended) legislation of allotment to Indians across the nation with the exception of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Musecogee (Creek), Seminole and Osage Nations of Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

For tribes such as the Sioux, Cheyenne, Klamath or Poncas, the loss of tribal lands through allotment was an alien concept to understand as tribes had held land in common for many generations.

In Oklahoma, more than twenty tribal entities were forced to take up allotments between 1887 and 1895. Included were Sauk and Fox, Potawatomi, Absentee Shawnee, Arapahoes, Tonkawas, Wyandots, Modocs, Cheyennes, Pawnee, Poncas, Otoes-Missourias, and a host of others. A good reference for this period is William T. Hagan’s book, TAKING INDIAN LANDS, 2003 by the University of Oklahoma Press.

One of the commissioners of the Jerome Commission charged with divesting the Native people of their lands was Warren G. Sayre, who commented about Senator Dawes that, “[he] made it his business to study the Indian Question and always in the interest of the Indians and not in the interest of the Government or the white man.” The many Indian people who were affected by this misguided logic would beg to differ!

In 1893, Dawes chose not to run for reelection to the Senate. In the waning days of President Clevelands second administration, he signed legislation creating the Dawes Commission to treat with the Five Civilized Tribes on March 3rd, 1893. Former Senator Dawes was appointed to the commission and served as chairman from 1893 until his death February 5, 1903.

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