Holdout, Doubtful and Reject of the Dawes Rolls

By Josiah Hair on March 2, 2012
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • LinkedIn
  • email
  • RSS
  • Print

Holdout, Doubtful and Reject of the Dawes Rolls

Cherokee Nation Citizenship 

By: Josiah Hair


Previous articles gave overviews and some tips on navigating through the Dawes Rolls. This article follows up on some information on those common arguments on who is and who is not Cherokee because of three classifications: Holdout, Doubtful and Reject.


Holdouts were a group of Cherokees that belonged to several societies in the Cherokee Nation mostly made of Full-Bloods. The Nighthawks was one such society that was very vocal in the refusal to enroll and accept the Allotment from the Dawes Commission. The leader was a Cherokee named Redbird Smith who throughout his life worked to return to a more traditional society.  He was a National Councilman and very vocal in his outspoken views regarding Allotment. But the Dawes Commission was relentless and he was arrested in 1902 and forced to enroll. His followers, some 5000 or so, continued for another year or so to reject enrollment, but they were enrolled without consent and finally allotted land and money.

Recount of Author on a Holdout Example

While I was researching my own ancestry I came upon the application of my Great Grandfather dated April 23, 1902.   The testimony is given by Sarah Swimmer his Mother-in-Law. She gave testimony for her daughter Evabelle Hawkins who was “sick and feeble” and could not come in to apply.  Swimmer testified that Evabelle was married to Josiah Hawkins and they had two children at the time. The commission then asked if Josiah would come in and it was mentioned that he refused to come in and testify. The Commission asked about any possible relation to the Nighthawks Society and Swimmer testified “yes.”  They continued the interview and then enrolled Evabelle, Josiah and the children with no need for any of them to appear in person.


Doubtful was a category the Commission used to define an applicant that they found doubtful at the time of enrollment and later they would do a deeper investigation to either approve or reject the application. The category Doubtful would have a roll number but it would start with the letter “D” found in the index.  There were some 3700 or so of these marked as Doubtful.  Overtime the Dawes Commission would weed through the applications and would enroll them and issue a Straight Roll number or they would reject them altogether.

Another type of “doubtful” was the same “red flag” that comes up today: the claiming of multiple Tribes.  The Cherokee Nation and The Commission had issues with applications in which one claimed many Tribes.  A review of census cards showed some applicants were marked “Doubtful” because they claimed they were several tribes and lived with these other Tribes as such.  Census records from The Cherokee Nation and other investigations helped The Commission to make a status judgment on these applications.


Rejects were the last category and in most cases it was applications that the Cherokee Nation advised against enrolling for various reasons.

Some rejection cases were regarding intermarried whites with a Cherokee by blood.  At that time a Cherokee could marry a Non-Cherokee and they could live within the Cherokee Nation as a citizen. The children of this type of marriage would be enrolled as Cherokee by blood.   That seems simple enough but it was found that many cases involved “bigamy” in which the Cherokee Man had stopped living with his first wife and had taken a second wife without divorcing the first.  Bigamy was a “red flag” for both the Cherokee Nation and The Dawes Commission.

Marriage and Divorce was very simple among the Cherokee but could cause some issues for enrollment.  Cherokee Law 1885 Section 96 Page 230 reads: “No particular form of marriage shall be required in the solemnization of marriages, except that the parties shall solemnly declare in the presence of a Judge, a Clerk or Minister officiating or the attending witness that they take each other as Husband and wife.”

Divorce was just as simple as one just had to register the fact of divorce with their courthouse.  The children would always have rights to citizenship as Cherokees by Blood but there may be questions on citizenship for the divorcee.

Still other cases for rejection involved inconsistency with when one moved to Indian Territory but failed to request admittance by The Cherokee Nation Council or cases were applicants declared living within the boundaries but were rejected fairly quickly due to the fact that they were not enrolled by the Cherokee Nation in 1880 or 1896.

For the most part, rejection cases involved just plain fraud from people that had no connection of any kind whatsoever to the Cherokee or any Native American Tribe.  This was very common as money and land allotments cause people to lie about anything including heritage.


The Dawes Commission for the most part used the official Documents that had been done and approved by the Cherokee Nation Council including the 1880 Census and the 1896 Census.  So when the Dawes Commission set up in Indian Territory they already knew who was considered Cherokee by The Cherokee Nation itself.  This is perhaps the most misunderstood part to the Dawes Rolls and why many argue what the Dawes Commission was doing.  In reality, The Dawes Commission was merely double checking the following information from The Cherokee Nation: 1) who made applications and 2) who was still living at the time of the Commission.

Finally and most important was the fact that one need not be present for enrollment as The Dawes Commission already had the name from The Cherokee Nation and they were just checking to see if one was still breathing.  Anyone that had a hard time “proving” Cherokee Citizenship were usually found to have no connection with the Cherokee Nation in the past and they also hah no relations that were connected to the Cherokee Nation in the past.


Garrick Bailey and Roberta Glenn Bailey, “Redbird Smith,” in Encyclopedia of North American Indians, ed. Frederick E. Hoxie (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996).

Personal research of the Author on his own Genealogy.

TOPICS: Native American Articles, Native American Culture, Native American Genealogy, Native American History, Native American Information

Related Posts

12 Responses to “Holdout, Doubtful and Reject of the Dawes Rolls”

  1. Mosezickle Pitts II says:

    In the case of Sallie Mayfield, her former owner Sallie Starr Mayfield left the Reservation deliberately to oust her former slaves and with all the evidence to support the claim of Sallie Mayfield and others the claim was denied and ultimately placed on the Doubtful Freedmen Roll then finally on the FR Roll or Freedmen Rejected Rolls. Recent discovery revealed all the facts pertaining to the transcripts in testimonies of these former slaves turned out to be true indeed yet the descendants of these former slaves lost hope of ever gaining their proper status as members of the tribe.

    • Josiah says:

      Are you saying she left before 1866? Which Reservation do you speak of? For Cherokees in Oklahoma were never on a Reservation but by law a Sovereign Area with our own Government and Courts system until the Curtis Act of 1898 which dissolved our Government and Courts. The Slaves of the Cherokees were Freed and granted Citizenship by the Treaty of 1866 which was the big fight was over a few years ago regarding that treaty. As for the Freedmen on the Dawes Rolls they were not counted by the Dawes Commission At that time as Cherokees so they were never granted Land along with the Whites that were Married to Cherokees…

      • Mosezickle Pitts II says:

        Josiah you are 100% correct they did not have reservations in Oklahoma for the Cherokee tribe, my bad. No according to the transcript of the Dawes Commission the slave mistress Sallie Mayfield left the Cherokee Territory and moved to Rusk county Texas before 1867 Her former slaves did return and applied for enrollment according to the Commission and was denied based on the fact that their former slave master did not return to Indian Territory and caused them to be denied. Sallie Mayfield the slave owner died in 1893 however her son Walk Mayfield saw to it his former slaves got all they were entitled too. Thanks for the post.

  2. debra jacobs says:

    Looking up Ridenour in Oklahoma area. Have been told all my life we were Native American. Found a Elmer Ridenour in dawes rolls but cannt find his brother Ira,who is my grandfather. My mother is Treva and said she was born on Monkey Island. Her mother was a Smith from that same area

    • Josiah says:

      I would try looking up on the Guion Miller Roll for siblings of Elmer Ridenour. Chances are if this person was accepted for enrollment on the Dawes Roll they will be on the Miller Roll. The Miller Roll shows Siblings of the person that is applying for the payment along with Aunts Uncles ect ect. The Dawes Roll was only concerned with determining if that applicant was a member of the Cherokee Nation AND they lived within the BOUNDRIES of the Cherokee Nation. The Miller roll had similar requirements but none on location of the applicant. Dawes Roll was granting Land to the Head of Household Miller Roll was a payment Roll to ALL Applicants.

  3. Je says:

    If someone was not of Cherokee descent, could that individual be born & live in Cherokee Nation?

    • Josiah says:

      Short answer: yes…
      Long answer:
      Prior to 1900 the Cherokee Nation was a soveriegn nation with a court system and government. Many non citizens such as Doctors, Lawyers, Blacksmiths ect ect did indeed reside within the boundries of the Cherokee Nation. In some cases they married Cherokees and in others they did not. A common myth was that we resided on a “reservation” such as you would find in the western states that was guarded by soldiers. When in fact it was a sovereign nation that allowed for immigrants (non citizens) such as trades people and professionals to reside and raise families within the our boundaries.

  4. Candice Crowley says:

    Question: will Dawes packet reveal whether Cherokee freedmen July Nivens had any Cherokee blood?

    • Josiah says:

      According to his Dawes Packet he was listed as a freedman and according to his testimony he claimed freedman status

  5. Phyllis Rivers Lopez says:

    I am Looking for my Grandfather I Believe I saw him on the Dawes RoLL In Cherokee NC His Name is GiLdy Rivers

    • Josiah Hair says:

      Eastern Cherokee were not subject to the Dawes Commission.
      I have only found 1 Gildy Rivers (b 1890), he was listed on the 1930 Census in South Carolina he was Head of house with Wife Julia and 5 children listed
      I looked up Gildy Rivers on the Guion Miller Roll of 1907 and did not find him perhaps some additional information may shed some light on this.

  6. Phyllis Rivers Lopez says:


Leave a Comment


Pow Wow Calendar Search

Month: Year:
Help support PowWows.com

New Threads

Dance Styles


Fancy Feather Dancing – Native American Fancy Dance

The Oklahoma Feather Dance or “Fancy Dance” is one of the most popular styles of Native American dance and outfits seen at modern pow wows. The Fancy Dance outfit, as …


Feather Hair Clip

How to Make a Feather Hair Clip – Craft Tutorial

This project uses the new popular hair clip as the way to fasten feathers in your hair. Small domesticated bird feathers can be used for the feathers. These are from …


View thousands of photos of dancing, singing, crafts and more. Share your photos online!