American Indians in Oklahoma
Dawes Act and Tribal Allotment
When Ponca chief Standing Bear (see the Biography page) was jailed for traveling outside of his reservation in order to bury his son, his story brought national focus to the American Indians in Indian Territory, including the interest of Senator Henry Dawes in Massachusetts. Dawes, wanting to help, created a bill in 1887 to divide allotted lands for individual Indians and sell the rest of the land for a profit. This bill, called the Dawes Act, provided an opportunity for the white settlers to purchase the excess land. American Indians did not feel the same way about the land runs as did the people making the runs. Individuals making the runs were happy and excited at the prospect of new land, but American Indians were afraid they might lose even more land. This is because they had already lost their homelands and some of the land the government had sold to them as well.
Map of the opened lands following the Dawes Act and assigned allotments (OHS).