- By Neely Bardwell
On February 8, 1887, the Dawes Act, also known as the General Allotment Act, was passed by Congress. This Act ultimately allowed the Federal government to legally seize and break up tribal lands. This act was one of the pivotal pieces of the American Government’s attack on Native people and continuation of settler colonialism.
In part, this act aimed to assimilate Native Americans into the colonized society of individual farming and land plots. It also played a major role in removing Native peoples from their land, so the government could sell it off to the settlers.
The government gave Native Americans the option of accepting individual plots of up to 160 acres of farm land or 320 acres of grazing land that would be “given” to the head of each family. Only those who accepted this option would have the ability to be made U.S. citizens.
White Americans viewed this as “generous.” They viewed this as a “gift” to Native people.
Through the Dawes Act, over 90 million acres of land was taken from Native people. The land that they had lived on and taken care of for years—even generations—was stolen and then maybe returned at a fraction of what they lived on previously. This Act was not “gifting” this land back to them, but it was merely a tool of continued assimilation and displacement.
Even though many tribes were promised payment for the land that was taken from them, if they were paid, they were majorly short-changed.
This also separated communities and tribes by forcing them to live on separate plots of land. This was part of the government’s strategic plan to disassemble Native communities in order to make assimilating easier.
Forced into standardized ranching and farming, when some Native Americans were not accustomed to this way of life. On top of this, the land that they were forced to cultivate was often not suitable for farming.
More Stories Like ThisTribal Business News Round Up: Sept. 26
A Year Later, Myron Dewey’s Family Waits for Justice
Two National Native American Organizations to Address International Trade for Indian Country at World Trade Organization Forum in Geneva
Native News Weekly (September 25, 2022): D.C. Briefs
Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola Hits the Ground Running: Her First Bill Introduced Clears Committee Two Days Later
Do you appreciate a Native perspective on the news?
For the past decade-plus, we’ve covered the important Indigenous stories that are often overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the toppling of colonizer statues during the racial equity protests, to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools, we have been there to provide a Native perspective and elevate Native voices.
Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked. Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $20 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10. Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news.
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.