Opinion: Treaties and the Five Civilized Tribes
"The recent letter from six members of Congress to Attorney General Eric Holder asking for an investigation of the “Five Civilized Tribes” illustrates ignorance regarding the non-Indian descendants of freedmen who were citizens of Indian nations between 1866 and the Dawes era. Their letter speaks of the five nations as if their treaties of 1866 are the same. There are surprising differences.

Additionally, their letter doesn’t mention the 54 acts of Congress which elaborated new agreements with the five Indian nations in the Dawes allotment era (roughly between 1890 and 1906) that ended entitlements to enrollment and cleared the way for founding the state of Oklahoma. “The Lands of the Five Civilized Tribes,” published in 1919 contains these acts of Congress and describes the various agreements as “in many details, fundamentally dissimilar.”

The Dawes era marks a pivotal point in Indian history in the United States. Congress was determined to dissolve the governments of Indian nations and to divide and redistribute their lands and resources to individual citizens of Indian nations, as well as non-Indian interests. The forced agreements with the five nations opened Indian land for non-Indian settlers, oil and gas drilling, and coal mining companies, among others.

Representative Barney Frank was one of the six asking for an investigation, but he also sent a separate letter to Holder claiming that “These [1866] treaties remain in full force and effect” and “Neither this Act [the Five Civilized Tribes Act of 1906], nor any other Act of Congress, modified or abrogated the Treaties of 1866.” If that is true, the state of Oklahoma, the corporations and the non-Indian settlers might consider returning Indian lands."

Get the Story:
Suzanne Jasper: Need for constant vigilance (Indian Country Today 6/9)

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