dawes act of 1887

Cultural Dictionary

Dawes Act of 1887 definition


A federal law intended to turn Native Americans into farmers and landowners by providing cooperating families with 160 acres of reservation land for farming or 320 acres for grazing. In the eyes of supporters, this law would “civilize” the Indians by weaning them from their nomadic life, by treating them as individuals rather than as members of their tribes, and by readying them for citizenship. Although generally well intentioned, the law undermined Indian culture, in part by restricting their hunting rights on former reservation lands. Much of the best reservation land eventually passed into the hands of whites.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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