With both federal officials and social reformers dissatisfied with the reservation system, Congress authorized the president to allot – or separate into individual landholdings – tribally-held reservation lands. Indians accepting allotments were to receive citizenship rights; although, this status was often delayed. The system of allotment caused Native Americans to lose millions of acres of land and undermined tribal governments.
Forty-Ninth Congress of the United States of America
An Act to provide for the allotment of lands in severalty to Indians on the various reservations, and to extend the protection of the laws of the United States and the Territories over the Indians, and for other purposes.
Sec. 6. That upon the completion of said allotments and the patenting of the lands to said allottees, each and every member of the respective bands or tribes of Indians to whom allotments have been made shall have the benefit of and be subject to the laws, both civil and criminal, of the State or Territory in which they may reside; and no Territory shall pass or enforce any law denying any such Indian within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. And every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States to whom allotments shall have been made under the provisions of this act, or under any law or treaty, and every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States who has voluntarily taken up, within said limits, his residence separate and apart from any tribe of Indians therein, and has adopted the habits of civilized life, is hereby declared to be a citizen of the United States, and is entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of such citizens, whether said Indian has been or not, by birth or otherwise, a member of any tribe of Indians within the territorial limits of the United States without in any manner affecting the right of any such Indian to tribal or other property.
“School practices, which fit hand-in-glove with congressional passage of the 1887 General Allotment Act, were designed to condition Native people to surrender tribally controlled lands and accept individual land allotments… Native individuals, as well as particular cultural traits or practices, were being fitted into an American ‘safety zone’ of obedient citizenry and innocent cultural difference. Parameters of the safety zone corresponded to relations of power: Safe citizens were part of a subservient proletariat, and safe cultural differences were controlled by non-Native federal, Christian, and social agencies that could proclaim themselves benefactors dedicated to ‘preserving’ Native life…” (pp. 43-44)
“Indians had the right to ‘remain an Indian,’ as long as they remained on their reservation or allotment land and did not compete for jobs. The lines around the safety zone were being redrawn not to liberate Indian-ness but to suit American social, cultural, and economic realities” (p. 73).
Lomawaima, K. T., and McCarty, T. L. (2006). To remain an Indian: Lessons in democracy from a century of Native American education. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.