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The US expanded by acquiring title to lands by purchase and treaty with other governments that claimed them, such as Spain and France.  Of course a lot of this land came from the Louisiana Purchase. {LA P included LA, MS, AR, MO,KS, IA, MN, NE, CO, OR,ND & SD, MT, ID, WA, WY.} But obviously there were already people living in these places and they were considered by law to have what was called “aboriginal title” to these lands. The US had to deal with that by making treaties and finding ways to legally “extinguish the aboriginal title.”

Through treaties with Indian Nations the US expanded its initial land holdings. Usually the first treaty the US made with a given tribe recognized the “aboriginal possession of the tribe and defined its geographical extent.“ “Sometimes the cession of aboriginal title was coupled with a cession of portions of the aboriginal domain.” (See Handbook of Federal Law, Felix Cohen, for information on aboriginal title and how aboriginal land was ceded to and acquired by the US.)


Some lands were reserved for the Indians, beyond which there would be no settlers, and some were open to settlement. Tribal ownership of certain lands was in effect codified by the treaties. Other ways treaties provided for Indian lands was through the establishment of reservations where lands were purchased for the tribes. Sometimes reservations were established also by Executive Order.


The treaties usually specified certain lands as being ceded to the US, and the Indians were either given the chance to get parcels of land for themselves (called “reserves”) and become US citizens, or the entire tribe was encouraged to move to other places.  The legalities of acquiring land this way and “extinguishing” the Indian rights to it are the basis of policies and arguments and lawsuits for the next several centuries.  Many of these are in RG 279, Indian Court of Claims records.


One of the problems that arose was when some of a tribe wanted to become citizens and some wanted to maintain their tribal relations. It was necessary to figure out the tribal assets and divide them up equitably among them. There not uncommonly was a “citizen party” and an “Indian party.” The citizen party would receive per capita shares of tribal funds and the Indian party would have exclusive rights to the remaining tribal fund. Sometimes this involved a migration of the Indian party to Indian Territory. The citizen party stayed and relinquished their tribal rights. Many people who have Indian ancestors today do not realize the ancestors left their tribes and relinquished their tribal rights, in order to become US citizens.  Today’s recognized tribes will not consider them as members.


The earliest treaties were of course for lands in the New England area of the US, and along the edges of the colonies. The “Removal” location would have to be to a place that the US considered that it owned, in the first place, and in the second place, it would have to be considered less desirable for other settlers.  That removal end-location continued to shift as new settlers and prospectors redefined the desirability of public lands.


By 1830, the US was getting serious about lands for settlers and Andrew Jackson spearheaded the whole Indian Removal movement, which was eventually a lot more than just the so called Trail of Tears and the Cherokees.  Almost of the tribes that settled in Oklahoma or Indian Territory as it was then, were removed successively from upper middle states such as Illinois, Ohio, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Indiana and the southern states of Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas. There are many “Removal” records in RG 75, not just the well-known Five Civilized Tribes. These can usually be researched under the name of the tribe.  The records we have are listed in PI163.

I just found this looking through old correspondence, today.
Dear Ms. W:
This is in reply to your letter asking for information about the identity tags you and your family were required to wear in 1930s to 1940 or so. You said they were a little larger than a quarter, and had your name and identity numbers 3234 and 1136, and Tulsa, Oklahoma written on them.  You said they identified you as an Indian, and you wanted to know why President Roosevelt issued them and to what particular Indians. You said you understood they were welfare tags the WPA was to use to provide you with food and schooling. You said a local historian told you they were issued when your family was moved away from the river. You said you wore them in several schools.You said they were a source of discrimination because they identified you as an Indian. You said you would like to know if they identified you as to tribe.  I have searched the Bureau of Indian Affairs records in our custody and have not found anything yet about these tags.  If I should find out anything in the future, I will try to get back to you with the information. In the meantime, I am sending your letter over to our other building where they have the WPA records, to see if they know anything, and they will answer you separately.

Dear Ms W:
This is in reply to your second letter asking for information about the identity tags you and your family were required to wear in 1930s to 1940 or so.  I have continued to look in the Bureau of Indian Affairs records and still have found nothing about identity tags as you described them.  I have found out that there was a program under President Roosevelt called the Indian Relief and Rehabilitation program, and it was associated with the WPA. The purpose of the program was to provide for basic needs, and to help Indians become more self-sustaining, so it could have been the program you were talking about.  You said it was a Welfare Act.  You said you had a lady in Dawson, Oklahoma, who took care of your needs. There were identification cards issued to individual workers who were hired to do projects under this IRR program, such as renovation of housing, digging wells, canning fruits and vegetables, sewing, and so on. The numbers on these ID cards were supposed to be the number of the project and the consecutive number of the person hired.  If someone was working on a project for the Five Civilized Tribes, their project number was 5- 274.  If someone were the 123rd person hired, their number would be 274-123.  The ID numbers were supposed to stay with the person even if they transferred to another project.  But there was no mention of any identification tags.  This is still a mystery.