Explanation of Enrollment Process

On March 3, 1893, Congress authorized the establishment of a commission to negotiate agreements with each of the Five Civilized Tribes--Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and  Seminole.  Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts, undertook the compilation of a complete Indian census that could be used as a basis for the allotment of tribal lands to individual Indians.

Prior to 1896, the tribes exercised sole jurisdiction over tribal citizenship, but in that year Congress passed an act, allowing the Commission to hear and "determine the applications of all persons who may apply to them for citizenship and determine the right of such applicants to be admitted and enrolled."  The Dawes Commission issued notices on July 8, 1896, announcing that it would accept applications for citizenship until September 10, 1896.  The application had to be a signed and sworn statement containing all the facts supporting the claim, and the applicant had to provide proof that a copy had been furnished to the tribal chief.  Congress required the Commission to make its decision within 90 days of receipt of the application and authorized an appeal process through the recently established US Court in Indian Territory.

The application and appeal process had been underway for two years when Congress passed the Curtis Act on June 28, 1898, (30 Stat. 495).  The act authorized the Commission to prepare for each tribe new citizenship rolls that incorporated names of successful applicants.  This "Final Roll" became the only roll used for allotment purposes.

Records Description

Applicants to the Commission included Indians by blood; spouses of Indians; although the spouses themselves were not Indians by blood; and freedmen who had formerly belonged to members of the Five Civilized Tribes.

When they were in active use, most applications were filed numerically according to application numbers assigned by the Commission.  To facilitate access to the numerically-filed applications, the Commission prepared several indexes. You can search the index to the 54 rolls of microfilm publication # M1650 at: www.accessgenealogy.com/native/commission.php.

Typical application files include supporting affidavits, depositions, letters, memorials, answers of tribal attorneys objecting to enrollment, lists of evidence, and receipts for service of papers.  Also included are notices of appeal to the US Court in Indian Territory at either South McAlester or Ardmore and a reference to the case number assigned by the court.  While several files contain only a receipt for papers signed by the Clerk of the US Court, a few files document in great detail the applicant's life, occasionally there are marriage licenses, photographs, and judgments issued by the US court.  some records provide background information on the applicant including name, post office address, age, degree of blood, lists of children and their ages, and other relatives.

— Introductory remarks on microfilm publication by Meg Hacker, who prepared the records for filming.

[Extracted from Access Genealogy, Indian Tribal Records.]