The USGenWeb Census Project
The USGenWeb Census Project

, Native American Coordinator
Native American Enumerations
Because Indians on reservations were not citizens until 1924, 19th- and early 20th-century census takers did not count Indians for congressional representation. Instead, the government took special censuses in connection with Indian treaties. (The government made its last treaty with the Indians in 1871.) The result of many treaties was to extinguish Indian titles to land. Typically, the Indians agreed to reduce their landholdings or to move to an area less desired for white settlement. Some treaties provided for the dissolution of the tribes and the allotment of land to individual Indians. The censuses (enrollments or rolls) determined who was eligible for the allotments.

Annuity payment rolls, 1841-1949, consist chiefly of receipt rolls for periodic annuity payments to individual Indians. Also included are rolls for equalization payments (money instead of land allotments); the distribution of proceeds of sales of townsites, timber, and mineral rights; compensation for improvements on ceded land; payments for expenses of removal; and other payments. The rolls sometimes give personal information about an Indian, such as age, sex, degree of Indian blood, and relationship to the head of family. They are arranged for most part alphabetically by name of tribe or band and thereunder chronologically. The individual rolls are usually arranged by family groups, sometimes alphabetically by surname but usually in no discernible order. Annunity payment rolls are often the best means of determining the members of a tribe or band for the period before 1884, when the annual census rolls began to be made.

The Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940, were usually submitted each year by agents or superintendents in charge of Indian reservations, as required by an act of July 4, 1884. The Indian agencies were established gradually and were organized more on a geographical than tribal basis. Agency names, superintendency, and/or jurisdictions may have changed as territories became states and the tribes were removed to other locals. The data on the rolls vary to some extant, but usually given are the English and/or Indian name of the person, roll number, age or date of birth, sex, and relationship to head of family. There is not a census for every reservation or group of Indians for every year. Only persons who maintained a formal affiliation with a tribe under federal supervision are listed on these census rolls.

The first federal decennial census that enumerated Indians as a separate race was the one taken in 1860. For this and the 1870 census, however, only Indians living with the general population were counted. In 1880 an attempt was made to enumerate non-taxed Indians, which meant those living on reservations. A special schedule was prepared, but it was used only for a few reservations near military installations. There are schedules in the National Archives for those Indians in Washington Territory under the Yakima Agency near Fort Simcoe and the Tulalip Agency; the Hunkpapa, Miniconjou, and Oglala Sioux of the Standing Rock Agency near Fort Yates, Dakota Territory; and the various tribes of the Round Valley Reservation, California. The census was to include all Indians living on October 1, 1880. Members of families who died after that date were included, but children born after that date were omitted. The schedule called for the name of the tribe, reservation, agency, and nearest post office; the number in the household and a description of the dwelling; and the Indian name (with an English translation) of each person in the family, his relationship to the head of the family, marital and tribal status, description, and information about occupation, health, education, ownership of property, and source of subsistence. Often the enumerator was unable to furnish all the data required, but in some cases information was added about tribal customs or living conditions.

Most of the census schedules for 1890 were destroyed by fire, but the Census Bureau used a special schedule for the Indians to prepare the "Report on Indians Taxed and Non-Taxed in the United States Except Alaska" (1894). Other special reports on Indians were published from information gathered in the 1910, 1930, 1950, and 1960 censuses. There is also information about Indians in the general population schedules for the 1900 and later years, but only the 1900, 1910, and 1920 are open for research. The population schedules through 1920 are available as microfilm publications.

American Indians, A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications.

Guide to Records in the National Achives of the United States Relating to Amercian Indians,
compiled by Edward E. Hill and published in 1981.

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Information updated on Sunday, 13-Feb-2011 23:45:39 CST