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Students examine the loss of land that tribes experienced through the establishment of reservations and subsequent land cessions and allotment.
Before the creation of reservations and allotments, American Indian tribes lived in every part of Montana. The areas in which the tribes traversed or settled, in which they hunted, fished, gathered, or planted were their aboriginal homelands.
As non-Native people began to settle upon Indian lands and overwhelmed native communities, many tribes began to sign treaties with the United States government to stop this encroachment and retain some of their lands for the tribe’s exclusive use and benefit. This is how many reservations were established.
Allotment of Indian reservations was institutionalized in 1887 by the Dawes Act. Indian communities continue to face the effects of this legislation.
Nineteenth-century proponents of allotment, who were mainly progressive non-Natives living in the Eastern United States, believed individual ownership of land would make Indians a sedentary, “civilized” people, who disregarded their leaders and the cohesiveness of the tribe. The allotment advocates envisioned Indians adopting the habits, practices and interests of the new settler population.
The U.S. President applied the Dawes Act to reservations whenever, in his opinion, it was advantageous for particular Indian tribes. Members of the selected tribe or reservation received permission to select pieces of land—usually around 40 to 160 acres in size—for themselves and their children. If the amount of reservation land exceeded the amount needed for allotment, then the federal government could negotiate to purchase the land from the tribes and then sell it to non-tribal settlers. In Montana, over two million acres were either ceded outright or sold to non-Indian homesteaders and corporations as “surplus lands.” In addition to the loss of this land, allotment had a significant social impact on Indian communities.
Montana Science Content Standard 2
Students, through the inquiry process, demonstrate knowledge of properties, forms, changes and interactions of physical and chemical systems.
Essential Understandings Regarding Montana Indians 3
The ideologies of Native traditional beliefs and spirituality persist into modern day life as tribal cultures, traditions, and languages are still practiced by many American Indian people and are incorporated into how tribes govern and manage their affairs.