Comparatively few people have any idea of the magnitude of the records of the Dawes Commission. Beginning at an early date after its creation the Dawes Commission began the work of securing data relative to the status of claimants for membership as citizens of the Five Civilized Tribes together with the value of the land and the improvements thereon. The census cards, later enrollment, and the patents to the individual members was the sequel of this work.
The Commission first began to enroll members of the Creek Tribe of Indians, and its procedure was not systematized to the extent adopted when the work of enrollment of the other Tribes began. As a result in a very large percentage of the Creek enrollment cases we find no record or transcript of the testimony adduced before the Commission, as a basis for enrollment. Testimony was taken, before the Commission, in every case but this testimony was not transcribed and kept in the files, and as a result there is now no record of it. However, in a large number of cases, and in all contested enrollment cases the testimony was transcribed, and a copy of the same may now be found in the enrollment jackets.
Persons seeking to buy, or lease, allotted lands in any of the Five Nations should see to it that there is presented to them with the abstract of title a certified copy of the census card, a certified allotment plat, and, in case there be any doubt as to the age of the allottee, a certified copy of the enrollment record, or so much thereof as tends to show the age of the allottee. You will note that in this last statement we suggest that you secure “So much of the enrollment record as tends to show the age of the allottee.” We say this for the reason that in many instances the enrollment records cover hundreds of pages of testimony, possibly only three or four pages of which or three or four lines of which show anything tending to fix the age. It would he useless, for you to secure the entire record, and it would work a great hardship on you not only in original cost, but in having it inserted in any court record, and paying for copies thereof thereafter in a case-made on appeal. In a very large percentage of cases you had best get the entire record, but there are cases in which you should make your order specific and request only such parts of this record as tends to show the age of the citizen whose age you are seeking to know. In such cases as these last referred to the office of the Superintendent will undoubtedly charge an additional fee for making the investigation and culling out from the record and evidence in the office such portions as will tend to show the age of the particular allottee. This matter, however, should first be taken up with the Superintendent. Remember this, always that the ages given on the census cards are not to be taken as a verity. The law says that the “enrollment record” is the evidence of the age and you must get this from the office of the Superintendent to the Five Civilized Tribes. You can get it nowhere else.
It is interesting to know that in the making of these enrollments and allotment records the Dawes Commission went over Indian Territory with a fine-tooth comb and gradually gathered in all letters, bills of sale, notes, mortgages, birth affidavits, death affidavits, marriage licenses, marriage certificates, and other such data, and these are now on file in the office of the Commission, and are attached as Exhibits to the record, in enrollment and allotment contest cases. The purpose of this was to show the status of the citizen or land he was seeking to allot. In certain cases it may be necessary for you to search back through these old records, but such cases will be rare.