Cover image for Taking Indian lands : the Cherokee (Jerome) Commission, 1889-1893
Taking Indian lands : the Cherokee (Jerome) Commission, 1889-1893
Hagan, William T., 1918-2011.
Publication Information:
Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
x, 279 pages : maps, portraits ; 24 cm
Format :


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E78.I5 H34 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Authorized by Congress in 1889, the Cherokee Commission was formed to negotiate the purchase of huge areas of land from the Cherokees, Ioways, Pawnees, Poncas, Tonakawas, Wichitas, Cheyennes, Arapahos, Sac and Fox, and other tribes in Indian Territory. Some humanitarian reformers argued that dissolving tribal holdings into individual private properties would help "civilize" the Indians and speed their assimilation into American culture. Whatever the hoped-for effects, the coerced sales opened to white settlement the vast "unused" expanses of land that had been held communally by the tribes. In Taking Indian Lands, William T. Hagan presents a detailed and disturbing account of the deliberations between the Cherokee Commission and the tribes.

Often called the Jerome Commission after its leading negotiator, David H. Jerome, the commission intimidated Indians into first accepting allotment in severalty and then selling to the United States, at it price, the fifteen million acres declared surplus after allotment. This land then went to white settlers, making possible the state of Oklahoma at the expense of the Indian tribes who had held claim to it.

Hagan has mined nearly two thousand pages of commission journals in the National Archives to reveal the commissioners' dramatic rhetoric and strategies and the Indian responses. He also records the words of tribal leaders as they poignantly defended their attachment to the land and expressed their fears of how their lives would be changed.

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In 1889, Congress authorized the Cherokee Commission to convince Indian Territory tribes to accept individual allotments to enable the Commission to purchase the surplus land from the tribes. Between 1889 and 1893, Commission members conveyed the will of Congress and the President to the Cherokees, Ioways, Pawnees, Poncas, Tonkawas, Wichitas, Cheyennes, Arapahos, Sac and Fox, and other tribes. The Commission, chaired by David Jerome, obtained tribal "consent" to $15,000,000 for 23,595 square miles. Only four tribes escaped signing away land. Hagan's use of Commission journals reveals the perfidious power tactics used in the misnamed negotiations. No matter how sophisticated the tribal arguments and how much tribal members objected to selling their land, the Commission indicated that the law and treaties did not matter. Chapter after chapter reveals the implacable ethnocentrism of the Commissioners and the spirited efforts of tribal leaders. Hagan's reiteration of tribal positions will inform students of US history. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. G. Gagnon University of North Dakota