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The Twin Territories ~ OK/ITGenWeb

Tribes and Nations of Oklahoma & Indian Territories

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More and more people from all over the United States are researching to prove their ancestor was an Indian. There has been an increase in interest in Indian ancestry because emphasis is placed on minority hiring in private industry and other Government agencies, as well as in the BIA, and in services provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This is a complicated matter that requires study and' research, and it is not possible to set out all the details in one article, but it is hoped this will help to start you in the right direction

Whatever the reasons, there are certain things people should know before they begin, such as the fact that possession of Indian blood does not, of itself, entitle an individual to rights or benefits provided by the Federal Government. The payments made to persons of Indian descent represent their shares of the assets of the tribe with which they are affiliated. Consequently, to be eligible to share in the tribal assets, a person must be a member of a tribe at the time its assets are being distributed.

Indian policy was based on the General Allotment Act of 1887, which purpose was to break up tribal land holdings and allot each tribal member land from the reservation with land title and full U.S. Citizenship. This act did not apply to the Five Civilized Tribes, the Osage, or the Sac and Fox, however, a similar policy was forced upon them by the Dawes Commission The Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes (commonly called the Dawes rolls) contain the names of more than 101, 000 people enrolled. A Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes was authorized to determine who was eligible for tribal membership and thus entitled to an allotment of land. There is generally a similar "FINAL ROLL" for most tribes, and tracing ancestry to someone on a "Final Roll"' is usually the key to recognition by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Dawes Commission Roll Book, the Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes, which is used for Certification of Degree of Indian Blood, was compiled mainly during the years 1899-1906. Anyone who died before 1899 does not have a roll number To be enrolled there were certain requirements to be met. Application had to be made during the enrollment period, showing membership in the tribe and actual residence within the area occupied by the tribe.

If your direct ancestor was an original enrolled on the Dawes Commission Rolls and you apply for Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood, based on that relationship, you will be required to furnish certain proof such as birth certificate, death certificate, or judicial determination of heirs showing relationship to the nearest lineal enrolled ancestor. If you do not know whether your ancestor was enrolled, or the tribe, you must identify your ancestor and learn where they were living in, Indian Territory in 1900. You can do this by looking on the 1900 Indian Territory census. Finding them on the census will tell you which Indian Nation they were living in, and if the person is Indian, identify the tribe. If you are looking for a tribal member who was not of the Five Civilized Tribes, you should look on the 1900 Oklahoma Territory for your ancestor, then check with Tribal Headquarters or the tribal rolls in the Oklahoma State Historical Society. The Dawes Commission Roll Books are also available at the Oklahoma State Historical Society.

Some people may never be able to prove Indian heritage. Indian law usually dictated that "when any citizen shall remove with his effects out of the limits of the Nation and become a citizen of any other government, all his rights and privileges as a citizen of the Nation shall cease, provided nevertheless that the National Council shall have power to re-admit any such person who may at any time desire to return to the Nation, but no one is entitled as an inherent right to re-admission to citizenship. If an applicant proves that at one time he was a recognized citizen of the Nation and has forfeited that citizenship, there is no law by which he can demand admission. As a matter of course, the same laws and usages governed the Dawes commission in their consideration of claims to citizenship

For the most part Indian agents only kept track of persons who were recognized as tribal members (either by the Federal government or the Tribal government). People who remained behind when the bulk of their tribe was moved by the Federal Government, or people who moved away from the tribe and in effect ended their affiliation with it, will probably be lost as far as official BIA records are concerned. You will have to find these people using the basic genealogical methods of putting the families in the proper place and time period, and studying the history of the area; talking to family members, asking for family Bible information, marriage records, birth records and census records.

Even if you do not prove your Indian Ancestry you will have made a significant contribution to your family history, and that is a worthy effort.

Source: Okla GS Quarterly - Vol 41 *1 1996 

The region ultimately organized with a Territorial Government and the name "Indian Territory" was within present-day Oklahoma -- but "Indian Territory" has had many different meanings down through the years as Native Americans were first pushed westward by the expanding colonies and later removed from areas that had attained statehood. Researching the genealogy of families who belonged to those Nations/Tribes obviously requires tracing them back to their homelands.  That's the type of information we are trying to provide here. 


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