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The Dawes Act And Its Effect On Native Americans

1553 words - 7 pages

The Dawes Act had a negative impact on Native American culture due to the attempted assimilation into Euro-American culture by converting to Christianity, education administered by Christian Euro-Americans, and U.S. government regulation of selling and ownership of tribal land. Created in 1887, the act allowed the distribution of Native American tribal land. The act was amended twice, once in 1891 and again in 1906, which remained in effect until 1934.
On February 8, 1887, the United States Congress decided to pass the Dawes Act also known as the General Allotment Act. The Dawes Act was named after its writer Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts. The congressmen who sought to pass and ...view middle of the document...

The Dawes Act was made to influence the Native people to enjoy and lay down strong traditions in agriculture, in which it had almost the opposite effect. According to Leonard A. Carson, “Prior to allotment the tribes on closed reservations had a workable land tenure system” (Carson, 386). He also stated that they increased the amount of land worked by roughly 10% per year until the Dawes Act was put into place. Allotment during the Dawes Act allowed Indians to sell or lease their newly acquired land. Many Natives decided to lease their land, which lead to a dramatic decrease for resources devoted to farming and agriculture. This division of land and individualistic outlook on farming caused the Native American people to go down a path of destruction of their traditional way of life based on each individualized tribe. To improve the Dawes Act and to correct certain sections that would in turn give more power back to the United States Government, the US Congress passed the Burke Act. This act gave the power to the United States Secretary of Interior to determine if Native Americans were capable or competent of managing their land. If found competent, they were given a fee-simple title, which made their land available for taxation. Another power this gave the United States Secretary of Interior was the right to any land when the owner dies before the expiration of the trust period of 25 years stated by the Dawes Act. The Burke Act also prevented the Native Americans from becoming United States Citizens immediately. They could only become a US citizen after their twenty-five years trust period and when they fully became owners of the allotted land.
The Dawes Act was only applied to Indian reservations whenever it was advantageous for particular Indian groups. People believed that an allotment act would change the Indian way of life by giving them a reason to stay on their native land, begin cultivating practices, and adopt American practices and interests. White settlers also believed that Native Americans owned more land than they needed and wanted to see native land be used for American industries such as railroads and mining. According to the president during the policy era, if the quantity of reservation land exceeded the amount of land needed for allotment, the federal government was able to negotiate purchasing the land from the Indian tribes and sell it to whites. This practice resulted in 60 million acres of native land either given up or sold to the federal government as surplus lands (Indian Land Tenure Foundation, 2014). Worth noting is the fact that between 1887 and 1900, there were 56,168 American Indian allotments approved totaling only 5 million acres of land owned by Natives (Otis, 87).
Under the Dawes Act, land ownership for Natives was different from land ownership for non-Natives. As a general principle when the policy of allotment was in effect, non-Native peoples had the option to sell their land because they...

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