History

Study Notes

Dawes Act 1887

Level:
GCSE
Board:
Edexcel

The 1887 Dawes Act was essentially the Homestead Act for Plains Indians. Each Plains Indian family was allotted 160-acre homesteads from their reservation land. Any leftover land was freed up for white settlers to buy. The aim of the act was to break up the power of the tribe by encouraging individual families to farm for themselves, rather than relying on the structure of the tribe. 

The 1887 Dawes Act was essentially the Homestead Act for Plains Indians. Each Plains Indian family was allotted 160-acre homesteads from their reservation land. Any leftover land was freed up for white settlers to buy. The aim of the act was to break up the power of the tribe by encouraging individual families to farm for themselves, rather than relying on the structure of the tribe. It also aimed to make Plains Indians more self-sufficient, encourage Plains Indians to be more like white-Americans, and free up more land for white settlers.

 

From the US government’s perspective, the act was successful. By 1890, Plains Indians had lost over half of their lands to whites. For Plains Indians however, life became even tougher. They found it almost impossible to make a living farming on the Plains. Most gave up trying to farm, sold their land to whites for little money and became landless. 

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