Impacts of Competency and Fee Patents on the Omaha Reservation During the Allotment Period: History and Patterns 1906-1934

Authors: Andrew Allen*, University of Kansas
Topics: Historical Geography, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Omaha, Allotment
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8224, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


When allotment was first implemented in the 1880s, the legislation called for lands to be held in trust by the government for a 25-year period. Allottees could not sell, lease, or encumber their property in any way and the policy was meant to protect individual Indian’s interests while they learned basic farming and financial skills. The trust provision was quickly eroded by Eastern philanthropists and Western speculators who viewed the provision as unfair. The trust period could be waived for individuals who were deemed “competent” to manage their own affairs, but the criteria for competency varied from year to year. These individuals were issued fee patents and full title to their land. For the Omaha tribe in northeast Nebraska, many allottees were issued fee patents early in the 1910s. Much of this land was lost through sales, leases, and fraud. Utilizing documents from the National Archives in Kansas City, I mapped fee patents issued between 1906 and 1934 and examined what patterns influenced these decisions. In the end, allotment was a disastrous policy for the Omaha and Indian communities in general and led to a further loss of land and poverty within the tribe.

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