Myths, Misinformation and Motivations regarding the 1907 Dawes Roll and 1909 Miller Rolls

Myths, Misinformation and Motivations regarding the 1907 Dawes Roll and 1909 Miller Rolls

Posted By Josiah Hair September 3rd, 2013 Last Updated on: February 2nd, 2019

I have written several articles on each of these rolls from a genealogical viewpoint, In this article, I will address the two rolls and compare them side by side from a motivational point of view. Another words what was the motivation for thousands to refuse to sign the Dawes Roll and those same thousands to come forth willing to sign up for the Miller Roll? What Myths and Misinformation were spread on the outset of the Dawes Rolls? What Group of Cherokees were intentionally left off the Miller Roll and why?  My hope is to assist the reader in having a better understanding of the two rolls, answer the questions I have posted and more importantly give a glimpse into the politics and History of these two very important Rolls to Cherokees today.

Dawes Commission & General Allotment Act, or Dawes Severalty Act

An act of Congress approved on 3. March. 1893 (27 Stat, 645) authorized the establishment of a commission to negotiate agreements with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole tribes providing for the dissolution of the tribal governments and the allotment of land to each tribal member. The sponsor, Senator Henry L. Dawes of Massachusetts was appointed Chairman of the Commission on 1. Nov. 1893, after which it has commonly been referred to as the Dawes Commission. ¹The Commission was authorized by an Act of Congress approved 28. June. 1898 (30 Stat. 495) to prepare citizenship (Tribal Membership) rolls for each tribe.  Under this act, subsequent acts and resulting agreements negotiated with each tribe, the Commission received applications for membership covering more than 250,000 people and enrolled more than 101,000. ²The Tribal Membership Rolls were closed on 4. March. 1907, by an Act of Congress approved on 26. April. 1906 (34 Stat. 370), although an additional 312 persons were enrolled under an act approved 1. August. 1914.

So what does this mean?? We shall breakdown several key sentences in this paragraph one at a time and address them:

  1. ¹The Commission was authorized by an Act of Congress approved 28. June. 1898 (30 Stat. 495) to prepare citizenship (Tribal Membership) rolls for each tribe:  This one sentence has perhaps caused more misunderstandings and caused the Dawes Roll to be viewed as open Enrollment for anyone that applied for it when that could not be farther from the truth. In fact Lawyers at the time of the Commission advertised in Eastern papers to anyone that read those papers, that Free Land was to be had and these same Lawyers would help them get enrolled as a Cherokee Indian by just paying a fee to them! The Dawes commission enrolled onto the Dawes Rolls a Person or Family that met this Criteria: 1) Physically Resided within the BOUNDRIES of that particular nation, 2) Were Alive at the time of the Commission, 3) Were shown on either the 1896 or 1880 Census for that particular Tribe and Recognized by that Tribe as being a citizen of that nation. Who was excluded? Married Whites of an Indian, Persons that could not show that they were enrolled on either the two previous rolls, more precisely recognized by that particular tribe as a citizen. Who was included? Everybody that was listed on either the 1896 or 1880 Census including Old Settlers commonly called Keetoowah today, you did not need to apply for the Dawes Rolls in person! The Dawes Commission was tasked with preparing membership rolls for each tribe, they used the Tribes own Membership Rolls as the baseline, thus separating those that did not have a legitimate claim to land and more importantly allot land to those that they found were living in Indian Territory and were listed and recognized as Citizens. This brings up several other Questions now, such as: How did they find those that did not want to enroll? And more importantly why did they care if they did not show up would that make their job easier?? To answer both of these questions we must understand the make up of the commission and more importantly what the motivation was. They were preparing a citizenship roll for each tribe Based on That Tribe's OWN Citizenship Roll that TRIBE had ALREADY Prepared! So the commission were merely cross-checking for each and Everyone ON that DOCUMENT. They did this by taking Testimony of individuals and families that appeared in person confirming that they appeared on previous rolls, they would enroll them and allot land to them. As for those that refused to enroll; They hired Cherokees to go out and find those that were not going to come in each district and determined if they were still living who was in the household then the commission would confirm the results and enroll them. They enrolled ALL 5000 or so Night Hawks that Actively fought against enrollment, This was a Group of Full Blood Cherokees led by Redbird Smith who advocated  to all Cherokees to refuse to enroll. In 1906 they traveled Indian Territory again and looked for Minor Children and enrolled them also. Is the Roll absolutely 100% correct? no! It has been found over the years some descendants of those that were for whatever reason not enrolled have had some issues. In the majority of these case it was found that people had documented previous ancestry on previous rolls or Family were documented in some other fashion and those issues have been worked out. We are only talking a  hand-full of cases out of 40,000, so less than 1% error remarkable for such a day and age! In every case some sort of documentation showing that their ancestors were considered Cherokee by the Nation could be found!
  2. ²The Tribal Membership Rolls were closed on 4. March. 1907, by an Act of Congress approved on 26. April. 1906 (34 Stat. 370), although an additional 312 persons were enrolled under an act approved 1. August. 1914: When a search  is done of a person or families's “Dawes Packet” within this group of documents you will find a Testimonial page and if you scroll to the end you will see when the Notary Public stamped it and dated a great majority were done in 1901 and 1902. Between 1903 to 1905 the Commission audited the results they had gathered over the previous years and sent out notices to the post office of record to those that they had follow-up questions for. In 1906 they went out and enrolled Illegitimate Children of those that refused to enroll or there was not a clear picture who the parents were and they enrolled those. The Commission took about 8 years to accomplish there work and during that time they returned over and over in field teams  to clear up any issues that they found.

What are our conclusions regarding the Dawes Roll?

1) That the Dawes Roll was a citizenship Roll of members of the Tribe That they lived within the boundaries within the Cherokee Nation.

2) These individuals/families were recognized by the Tribe that they were Cherokee. 3) That they were still alive during the time of the commission. So what does this Roll mean for present-day Cherokees that are wanting to Enroll in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and for that matter the United Keetoowah to some extent? You must provide primary documents that prove you are a direct descendant of someone that is enrolled on this roll. So starting with your self then your parent's grandparents and then great grandparents and so on. The Tribal Registrar will not do genealogy research for you however they do have a list on the Cherokee website of some great Researchers. Do not waste money on DNA research although these same websites tout that you could discover Native American “roots” in no way shape or form could they tell you what Tribe! They are much like the shyster lawyers at the beginning of the 1900's advertising throughout the East that they could get you enrolled and “Free” LAND! No, you must do research the hard way and that is by primary documents, Birth Records certified by the State, Death Records certified by the State and provide those documents to the Tribal Registrar.

Guion Miller Roll aka  Eastern Cherokee Roll of 1909

This Roll is a list of Cherokees that applied for compensation arising from the judgment of the United States Court of Claims on May 28, 1906, for the Eastern Cherokee Tribe.  Approximately 46,000 people applied for compensation but not all were admitted.  Basically, this was a payment roll ($133.33 per person) for the Eastern Cherokee and their descendants that had been removed from the Southeast.  It was not a citizenship roll as the Dawes Roll was.  The Guion Miller Roll lists Cherokees in two broad categories: Cherokees residing East of the Mississippi and Cherokees residing West of the Mississippi. This compensation did not apply to those Cherokees that had left the East prior to 1835 and were covered by the Treaty of 1828, what we today call the Old Settlers. The Old Settlers received compensation in 1896 for loss of lands and other goods promised them by treaties of 1828 and 1832. The commission would take the application and determine if they could trace either the applicant or descendants of the applicant to either the Drennon, Chapman or Henderson Rolls. These three rolls were of Cherokee that resided in Indian Territory in 1851 (Drennon), Resided in Eastern Cherokee lands in 1849 (Chapman) or the Emigration Roll of those that were forcibly removed from the east in 1835-1838 (Henderson).

To apply for compensation a person gave testimony of their family as far back as they could recall, depending on the applicants age the commission would determine through research if it was the applicant or the parents of and in some cases even the Grandparents that would have been listed on one of the three Rolls in question (Drennon,Chapman or Old Settlers). The focus of this roll was to determine if the applicant was an Eastern Cherokee or a Descendant of one. In the case of this roll, they were only concerned with if an applicant could list anyone maternal or paternal either directly or indirectly such as uncles, aunts, cousins ect ect. It is a Wealth of Information for unlike the Dawes Roll that was only concerned if that person was listed on a roll in the 1890 or 1880's, On this Roll they would show some 2 or 3 generations of Cherokees along with siblings aunts uncles and their Indian Name; Another important fact was female applicants would have their maiden names listed! For genealogists, it is a very important roll and perhaps the most important one ever done of Cherokees. For it TRANSLATES names from Cherokee into English it determines how the names were written for the commission did the research at that time to determine the eligibility of the Applicant. This brings up several important points regarding these two rolls: most full blood Cherokees refused to enroll with the Dawes Commission for they did not want to lose their government nor did they want to live on the land that the government decided for them (You could pick your allotted land but only if you enrolled with the commission). However with the Miller roll not only did full bloods apply but any Cherokee did and those that were not enrolled with the Dawes Commission because they lived outside the boundaries were counted on the Miller Roll if they could trace to an ancestor and meet the criteria of the roll. The other fact was Married couples could apply separately, all previous rolls they only took an application from the Male head of the house, and would only take an application from the female if she was a widow. For the first time, it would not only show the female side but would list her maiden name and who her parents were!

Some Final Thoughts

Regarding the Dawes rolls, large groups of Cherokee refused to enroll and yet were enrolled without their consent and allotted land. On the other hand, those same Cherokees stepped forward to enroll because of the money that was involved (although not a huge amount by today's standards). A researcher that was attempting to trace family genealogy could and should research both rolls using them to gain a better insight into the thoughts of both commissions at the turn of  century



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Ashley Rose

My grandmother’s parents were both listed on the Guion Miller Roll. But they had moved to Washington in 1890 and stayed in Washington State. Would that be a reason that they were rejected from the final roll?

Josiah J Hair

That is correct! In my article I tried to clarify the differences in the two rolls which one of the main differences was on the Dawes roll u Must reside within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation! So if your kinfolk left in 1890 they would be excluded from the Dawes Rolls unfortunately.


So is it true that not all Cherokee applied for the rolls? I’m having a very hard time tracing my ancestors who are supposedly Cherokee but I don’t know if it was a story. I’ve also tried to check other tribes the best I can that were in Georgia.. it’s giving me a giant headache and I don’t know if it’s all just a wild goose chase.

Sheila Vanderbilt

My Paternal Grand Mother’s family were enrolled on DawesCreek Roll as are myself and my children. My Maternal GrandFather told me storied about growing up on a Choctaw Reservation in southern Oklahoma but never mentioned or presented any documentation that his family heritage was documented. I’m 76 years old and very interested in tracing any information about my Papaw for myself and my grand children. Unfortunately all known members of my grandfathers family are now deceased so I have no one to contact. I would appreciate it if you can offer a direction to take at this late date?
Looking forward to your suggestions
Sheila Vanderbilt

Paul G
Brandon Holmes

My great grandmother maggie higginbothom was mostly native american according to my mother. In the town of boswell they were racist so my family changed their name and didnt claim their heritage. I want to know more about my family so what do i do

Steve Johnson

My wife’s grandmother was full blood Cherokee from West Virginia. How or can we claim her Cherokee connection?


Looking for information on my family. There is so much that is just muddy. Can anyone help me? I have started a tree on, but cant seem to get any where.


I dont need help with family search just help finding my native american past. I have many cousins that have OCIB cards, but I dont know them well enough to talk to them, ot live that close. I have some information on my family back a ways (if its correct as correct as I can get it). Just looking for my native americans past. I just want to know more about it.


I to am just beginning my research. My mother was adopted and knew little to nothing about her heritage until this week when I stumbled upon the Allen County Library in Fort Wayne. They have a marvelous genealogy section and I was able to find her birth family and connect her to her blood brother.

All that being said, she has a great great grandfather named William M Black Sizemore, also known as Black Hawk Sizemore. Born January 19, 1853..I think (I didn’t see that exact date on Amy census or official documents just on family trees people have done). Soo how would I go about confirming his birth location and if he was indeed Cherokee. Her blood aunts obituary claims relations to George Hinting Short Sizemore.. are there professional Cherokee researchers that can help?

marilyn shober

I found my ancestor’s application for Cherokee (#90). I am trying to find the testimony in 1902? after he was denied. I have found several for others but not his.
William B Tidwell and family. Any help as to where I can search would be appreciated.


Was William B Tidwell Cherokee#90?
I did a lookup for him and he is not listed on the Rejected Rolls


I do not know if there is anything else I can do to look up my indian heritage. I have a ancester Christopher Columbus Cochran born 1855, who I’ve been told thru family filled out and sent off to be on Dawes roll. He never heard from anyone again. Couple years later he was cleaning out back store room and found his application had never been sent off. Now I do not know if that story is true or not. I cannot find his name on Dawes rolls but I did find a Columbus Cochran on Dawes rolls and he did go by Columbus not Christopher. What can I do to find out, what can I do if anything? Anything would be appreciated, thanks in advance. My email is [email protected]

Donna Atwood

Oh there is also a grandmother named Seth a thrown in there I’m just consumed as to what order the go in sorry if I’m confusing you as well lol this is driving me crazy.thank you

Donna Atwood

SyTha not seth

Donna Atwood

Stupid spell check ruined that post I’m so sorry.

Donna Atwood

This is all so confusing I’m trying to pUT together my linage here’s what I know,3rd great grandfather was named James Helton his wife was named Sippie 4th great grand father was named Little Deer and my 4th grandmother was shaddrack I think they called her sally? Then my 5th grandparents are j helton and Arsekeshke. the names were in the family bible as well as the on the 1835 henderson do I put all these people together for my family all are on my great great grandmother’s side.Lula helton.


Throughout the awesome degisn of things you receive a B- with regard to effort. Exactly where you actually misplaced me was on your particulars. As it is said, details make or break the argument.. And it could not be much more accurate at this point. Having said that, let me reveal to you just what exactly did give good results. The article (parts of it) is actually very powerful and that is probably why I am making an effort to opine. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. 2nd, while I can certainly notice a jumps in reason you make, I am not necessarily convinced of exactly how you appear to connect your points which produce the actual conclusion. For the moment I shall yield to your point however hope in the future you actually link the dots much better.

Tara Patterson

Hi Donna,

I am Tara Browning Patterson. Jefferson Davis Helton was my gr gr grandfather. His daughter Julie Jenetta was my Grandmother Mary Talcalene Walker’s mother, as well as your great grandmother Lula’s sister , I believe. I am very interested in talking with you. [email protected] or 2703312027.


My great grandmother’s maiden name was Littledeer, but sometimes, she used campbell. Same as her father. I’m curious about your heritage.


Hi Adam just to let you Tara Browning and I have discovered we are related she’s my cousin! We have also discovered we our from the Helton,goins line.on old shadracks side.we are still researching and still putting the puzzle together.

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