Holdout, Doubtful and Reject of the Dawes Rolls

Holdout, Doubtful and Reject of the Dawes Rolls

Posted By Josiah Hair March 2nd, 2012 Last Updated on: February 2nd, 2019

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 was 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.

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Sallie Higgins

Family Search, and scores of other sites indicate I’m a descendant of a woman called Comfort ‘Cherokee’ (1754-1836) who was married to a man named John Hester. The same sites indicate that John’s mother Sarah, may have also been Cherokee. There are much primary sources about Comfort, however none give any last name or show her being anything other than white. My father, who died in 1990, never having had access to Internet, only books, indicated there was a Cherokee bloodline. I have primary sources up to John & Comfort, so I know that she is my 4x great grandmother for sure. But other than what the Internet claims, I have nothing that indicates Comfort was Cherokee. What do you suggest I do to find proof of Comfort’s and possibly Sarah’s, Cherokee origins?


Trying to become enrolled. My mom is cherokee but passed when I was 12. I am now 29 next week. She began her research prior to her passing from lung cancer. My dad, who is for sure racist, I believe got rid of all of her information so I would never have access to it. My mother had a aunt who lived on the north carolina reservation that my brothers and sisters got to visit once. They said her name was mary, but they were way too young to remember anything else . Through my own research now trying to continue her objective, to get us recognized, I have been researching for nearly 7 years. I have names on the dawes rolls but they were either rejected, not living or enlisted during the 6/7 year period they needed to be. I have a ton of names on the guion miller rolls, for eastern band. The issue is, from what I am reading, they need to be on the baker rolls for eastern band. I see in a post above you said that the miller rolls are part of the baker rolls, however, my family names do not appear on the baker rolls only the miller so how is this possible? Am I maybe not at a full access location for the baker rolls? Can one still use the miller rolls for enrollment in the eastern band? I also have a keetowah band name, but it is useless as the person was 1/32 at the time lol. My moms entire family were located in virginia, west virginia, north carolina, tenn, and ky, I believe one or two missouri…. I also have a spreat sheet with alllll of this information so it is easy to send. I am desperately looking for help and I would like to finish what my mom started for me and my son. Any help is greatly appreciated!!!
please email me at [email protected] or 5612872524



Katie Walling

Josiah, I have a problem my real Grandmother Artie Lee Caylor Whitney Born in 1913 Yell County Arkansas died in 1934 Wichita, Segdwick Co., Kansas was supposed to have a Indian Roll number from the BIA so I was told by my step Grandmother and she said it was Cherokee how can I find out if this is true? Artie Lee Kuykendall Caylor her mother was born in 1886 Indian Terr., Cherokee, Oklahoma. I can go back all the way on my Maternal line to a Virginia Jane Sowell Payne born in 1806 Davidson CO.,Tennessee, she married 29 Aug 1831 James Matthew Payne in Lawrence Co., Alabama. What my problem is I can’t seem to prove if Lucy Jane Nicholson and John James Sowell are Virginia (Jane’s) parents or not until I find out for sure I am not putting them in my Family Research. I can’t seem to find out for sure who are the parents of Lucy or her husband James I need some help on this family? I know that there is a James M. Payne on the Baker Roll-1924 #1848, James Pain Hester Roll-1883 #1561 and Churchhill Roll-1908 # 1631, I know that my James Payne died after the 1880 US census was taken in Lawrence CO., Alabama so I am not for sure if this is my James Payne or not, I am in need of some help finding out who this is? Thanks Katie

Jennifer Mayfield

Hi, I am searching for information on my daughter’s Cherokee ancestors. We have very little information on her ggg grandmother named Emily Crittenden or Emily Crittenden Weaver. Her mother was a slave named Nellie Cole. They were owned by a man named Elijah Phillips until his death then his wife Sidney owned them. Emily Crittenden was 14 when she had her son Anthony Crittenden by a man named Mose (s) Crittenden (not sure the relation to the man listed as Emily’s father Lewis Crittenden). Anthony was given land but he AND Emily were listed as Freedmen on the Dawes rolls. They were both rejected later and Anthony ended up losing his land. We are trying to find out more about Nellie Cole and also any other information on Emily. She went on to have several children with a man named Weaver, a man named Kirk and I believe a man named Roberts. Anthony was the only one she had with Mose Crittenden. We have looked on Fold 3 and ancestry. ANY information you could find would help us develop a picture of these ancestors. Thank you so much.

Paul G

Hello I guess I have a silly question I found my family on the roll as chickasaw closed ….. I have looked at the court documents on this and they were admitted then closed ….. does that mean there is no chickasaw blood there ?? It kinda bothers me to see all my relatives on the roll and see the number with 32c next to it … I got that list from access genealogy 3x grandfather Josiah fowler and Julia pistol fowler any understanding on this would help thank u for your time 🙂


I’m trying to get an understanding of the meaning of the word (overturned), in the Dawes Commission. What/was is overturned?

Scott Welch

Looking for information on my 2nd Great Grandfather Mac Welch. He married Nancy Brewster and they had a child Jesse Edward Welch in 1872 in Cherokee County Alabama which is my Great Grandfather. My aunt was told by my Grandfather that Mac left for awhile when Jesse was young and when he returned Nancy Brewster had married a man named John Hyde around 1882. I have been all over ancestry.com looking for a Mac Welch and found no paperwork that would match possible birthdates on him. Only known paper is one my aunt has where Nancy had applied for John Hydes pension and it states on that paper that she had once been married to Mac Welch. My Grandmothers sister is my oldest living relative at almost 100 years of age and she did know my Great Grandfather Jesse before he passed in 1947 and said he was Native American. No idea where to turn from here to find Mac Welch…

Kathryn Peterson

My family claims Turtle at Home as an ancestor. My mother’said maiden name is Caudill. The Caudill name is very prevalent in Kentucky….but we also go back to surnames Cox, Hubbard, Short, Mullins, and Boggs….all surnames can be found on different Native American censuses. I have been working on family tree…and my ancestors Hugh Boggs Jr. Is from the John Boggs line. What documents must I have to prove this to The Cherokee Nation? I have been working on this for quite some time…but records aren’the easy to come by…official ones that is…family originated in Virginia and North Carolina. How can I locate living relatives that are. Currently enrolled? Sheesh….hope to prove officially my heritage before I die. Thanks for any help in advance.

Camille Hebert-Thomas

I don’t know where to begin.Approximately 25yrs ago I walked into the Madill, Oklahoma Historical Society’s office, being nosy. There were 2 elderly volunteers, I don’t recall their names. In conversation with the couple about Marshall Co., the gentleman asked about my family. I had little information but my gma was Jessie Mae Hebert, her mother Gladys Flower’s (1902) & great great gma Zada Stewart (1886). He knew Ms.Zada(an Indian woman), when he was a child, who lived near the rr tracks, made & sold sweets. I dropped the ball…
Being of very mixed parentage, I don’t know where to begin. I found out Zada was on the Rolls in 186? then removed from Dawes Rolls 193?. If you could just point me in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate.

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