Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1994


Published in Great Plains Research 4:2 (August 1994). Copyright © 1994 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


The (Dawes) General Allotment Act of 1887 was meant to fulfill the United States Government policy of allotting individual parcels of Indian reservation lands in an effort to break up communal societies, forcing tribes to move towards the white man's ideal of civilized culture. Three decades earlier, Article 6 of the Treaty of 1854 allowed for the survey and allotting of the Omaha's northeastern Nebraska reservation, placing the Omaha Nation at the leading edge of federal policy a generation before the Dawes Act. Two interrelated groups of tribal members identified as "Make-Believe White-Men" and the "Progressives" who signed an 1882 petition are tracked through the allotments of 1871, 1883-1884, and 1900. Though numerically small these politically active groups had a great impact on the shaping of federal policy relating to the Omaha Nation. Their success or failure at emulating white culture was interpreted as an example of the attitude of all Omaha people. Their patterns of land-taking, as well as the unexpected growth of land leasing which developed with allotments, showed Omaha innovation within a traditional framework.