In 1893, when the Dawes Commission was established to negotiate with the Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws. Creeks, and Seminoles (the Five Civilized Tribes) to abolish tribal governments and to provide for the allotment of land to tribal members, few could have foreseen that this would lead to the creation of one of the most important record sources in all of Native American genealogy, for the Dawes Commission was empowered to prepare citizenship rolls (membership rolls) for each tribe to determine the proper distribution of land and to hear and “determine the applications of all persons who may apply to them for citizenship and . . . determine the right of such applicant to be admitted and enrolled.”
These rolls, known as the “Final Rolls,” were to be the only rolls used for allotment purposes, and because of the rigorous application procedures involving proof of blood and tribal affiliation, they are the basis for the official identification of degrees of Indian blood among the Five Civilized Tribes.
Applications for enrollment were received from approximately 250,000 individuals, but the Final Rolls approved by the Commission contained the names of 101,000, of whom approximately one-fourth were full blood. The Commission enrolled individuals as “citizens” of a tribe under the following categories: Citizens by Blood, Citizens by Marriage, New Born Citizens by Blood, Minor Citizens by Blood, Freedmen (former black slaves admitted to tribal citizenship), New Born Freedmen, and Minor Freedmen. Most rolls give name, age, sex, degree of Indian blood, and the number of the census card, generally known as the “enrollment card,” on which each citizen was enrolled. (Enrollment cards, as distinct from the Final Rolls themselves, are arranged by tribe, thereunder by category, and thereunder by the census card number shown as part of the individual’s entry on the Final Rolls, and they usually contain parents’ names and places of residence, the names of related enrollees–husband, wife, children–and references to earlier tribal rolls.)
From the original Final Rolls, which are now housed in National Archives II at College Park, Maryland, the Commission in 1907 published The Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory along with the Index to the Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory, now reprinted here for the first time in nearly a century. The Index volume, divided by tribe and broken down under the various categories noted above, provides the Indian’s name and the roll number; while the roll number is the key to the Final Rolls volume, which lists enrollees by tribe and category and thereunder by name, age, sex, degree of blood, and the number of the census card.
Unparalleled in Native American genealogy, the work reprinted here is one of the finest printed sources relating to the genealogy of the Five Civilized Tribes and is the reference of choice for any researcher claiming even a fraction of tribal blood.
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