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Acts under which the Work of Enrollment was Prosecuted

Posted By Dennis On In Native American,Oklahoma | No Comments

It has been pointed out above that the intervention of the United States in respect to the making of the tribal rolls was necessary because the tribal authorities had themselves failed to make correct rolls, owing to their corrupt practices, and that many persons who were entitled to citizenship were unjustly deprived of their rights. From all that has been said it is apparent that Congress intended to. and actually did, repudiate the tribal rolls in a large measure.

In undertaking the work of making the rolls Congress legislated as guardian upon the theory that the Indians were wards of the United States and that, as such, they were entitled to its assistance and protection in order to secure and preserve their property rights. Thus the Government assumed directly an attitude of responsibility in the matter. Out of this relationship of guardian and ward it was the duty of the United States to take the initiative in securing the enrollment of each of its wards. The burden of taking affirmative action lay upon the United States and not upon the respective Indians. This is true from a legal standpoint, but this principle was not introduced into practice. In practically all of the acts Congress threw upon the Indian citizens the responsibility of making application for their enrollments; in other words, the duty was imposed upon the ward of making application to his guardian to secure rights which the guardian was in duty bound to secure for those who were entitled to look to him for assistance and protection.

Notwithstanding the reasons which induced the Government to undertake the work, its good intentions seem to have been forgotten or overlooked. An inspection of the enrollment laws made by Congress and the rulings of the department will show that time and again it was made necessary for the applicant to apply for his enrollment. Not only this, but he was also compelled to do so within arbitrary time limits. The injustice of this requirement is plainly seen by contrast. The duty was placed upon the Indian of taking the first steps-that is to say. to make application for enrollment, looking to the securing of his allotment and his share of the tribal funds. Although thus left to shift for himself at the most critical stage in the transaction, he was not allowed to remain a free agent after securing his enrollment. The laws regulating the allotment of the tribal lands imposed restrictions thereon, under which the same Indian could not dispose of his land or even lease the same, with certain minor exceptions, without the consent of his guardian. It is very plain that if the provisions of law relating to guardianship were properly applied to the Indian in respect to the sale and leasing of his land it was improper and unjust to withhold assistance from him in securing his enrollment.

The laws governing the making of the rolls were of three classes, the first of which were of a general and preliminary character, embracing within their scope all the Five Civilized Tribes; the next class of laws was of a special nature, and contain the principal acts under which the work of enrollment was consummated: this class consists of measures embodied in agreements with the respective tribes. The third class of laws was of a supplemental nature, and relates mainly to the enrollment of new-born citizens for whom no provision was made in the various agreements. For convenience I will set forth the several acts according to the classification mentioned:

The various enrollment acts will now be considered somewhat in detail and an effort will be made in so doing to bear in mind

  1. Whether said laws were adequate to carry out the purposes for which they were enacted;
  2. Whether said laws were so administered as to render possible the enrollment of all persons entitled to citizenship in the Five Civilized Tribes.

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