Indian Country Today Media Network has been running a series about the Act, which, in effect, parceled out Indian territory into individual chunks that could be managed by the Indians or sold or traded to non-Indians.
Historians interpret the Act through different lenses. One view is that the selling of lands was out-and-out theft. Another popular view is that legislation would force Indians to adjust to new ways of living and thus become integrated into the settler culture.
And some folks defend the Act as the only way legislators knew to “save” the Indian.
One author notes that some scientists firmly believed that Indians were a race different from their settler counterparts, and that the “savage” could be tamed and civilized, given the right environment.
Robert Bieder writes that the “right environment” included such “civilizing” forces as Christian conversion and individual home ownership.
I found a map last summer that shows my grandmother and great-grandmother’s land tracts parceled out at a display at the Osage Museum in Pawhuska. The map illustrates how the Oklahoma landscape was subdivided into little plots, labeled with individual names of the Indian owners.
To my untrained eye, the parcels seemed in random order, with my ancestors’ names scattered across the territory. In other words, family members were segmented and segregated.
Many Osages sold their parcels, which was the intent of the Dawes Act. In a February 8 story on the Act for Indian Country Today Media Network, writer Gale Courey Toensing notes that the legislation was intended to “civilize” American Indians.
And she adds that the legislation “broke up communally owned tribal land that had guaranteed every tribal member a home and almost destroyed Indian communities, traditions and culture.”
Photo uploaded from Toensing’s article at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/02/08/96582-96582