“Any Sane Person”: Race, Rights, and Tribal Sovereignty in the Construction of the Dawes Rolls for the Choctaw Nation

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3 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper explores the role of race in the construction of tribal rolls for the Choctaw Nation of Indian Territory under the Dawes Act. Examination of two examples, enrollment of Choctaws in Mississippi and arguments presented in the 1907 hearings before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on the status of Choctaws of Indian and African American heritage, demonstrates that policymakers' primary concern in deciding the fate of mixedrace individuals was not the determination of Indian blood, so as to enroll them, but of African American blood, so as to exclude them. With this approach, members of the Dawes Commission used Indian policy to uphold the color line. The Choctaw Nation also drew sharp racial lines. Their concern, however, was not racial purity, but citizenship and tribal sovereignty. Attorneys for the mixed-blood claimants proffered a definition which they believed to be biological—they focused on their clients' percentage of Indian blood—while the Choctaw Nation's lawyers held to a political and legal definition embedded in notions of children's legitimacy, as granted through marriages sanctioned by the Choctaw state. Thus the same racial enrollment policy—exclusion of blacks—served two different functions in the implementation of allotment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-471
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
Volume9
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History

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