The Dawes Act or General Allotment Act of 1887 authorized the federal government to survey Indian land and divide it into allotments spurring individual ownership of land. This was seen as an essential step in assimilating Native Americans into the Jeffersonian model of farming. The American government would purchase “excess” land remaining after the lands had been allotted and open that land up to white buyers. The act broke up the reservation system with the understanding that Native Americans would become farmers and Americanized citizens. Provisions of the act stated that a head of family would receive 160 acres; single persons or orphans received 80 acres; those under 18 received 40 acres. Allotments would be held in trust for 25 years by the U.S. government and eligible American Indians had 4 years to select their land; afterward their selection is made for them. Equal distribution of water for irrigation, did not apply to all tribes. Courtesy of the National Archives.
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