Following the signing of the Treaty of New Echota and the final removal of the bulk of the Eastern Cherokee to the Indian [Oklahoma] Territory in 1839, one of the irksome problems confronting Cherokee leaders concerned qualification for tribal citizenship. Prior to the American Civil War, this controversy was often associated with the political rivalry between the Ross and Watie factions of the relocated Cherokee. After the war, the issue was exacerbated by the influx of even more white and ex-slave “intruders” to the reservation seeking the privileges of Cherokee citizenship. To make matters worse, the Cherokee Tribal Council and the Department of Interior were never able to agree on (1) who was responsible for removing “intruders,” and (2) which jurisdiction had the final authority on the subject of citizenship. Despite the efforts to the contrary of Chief Ochalata and the Cherokee Tribal Council during the administrations of Presidents Grant and Hayes, the citizenship question was one factor leading to the passage of the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887. This statute resulted in the de-nationalization of the Cherokee and other tribes in the Indian Territory and the establishment of a white-dominated government in Oklahoma.
The book at hand concerns the rulings of the Cherokee Nation Commission on Citizenship (a creation of the Tribal Council) on cases of citizenship.(It should be noted that the Dawes Commission of 1893 subsequently scrutinized the Cherokee Commission dockets in making its final determinations on citizenship for members of the Five Civilized Tribes.) Cherokee Commission Dockets is adapted from the author’s earlier Mountain Press publication, Cherokee Commission Docket Books 1898-1914; however Mr. Bowen expects to produce one or two additional volumes in this series based on unpublished dockets. Volume One consists of abstracts of Dockets 1-286 of the Commission. Besides the names of the applicant and the presiding commissioners and the date of the determination, in most instances the transcriptions identify the names of family members and their relationship to the person(s) filing the application. In all, researchers will find references to about 4,000 Cherokee claimants in this timely volume.