The Act was named for its creator, Senator Henry Laurens Dawes of Massachusetts. The stated objective of the Dawes Act was to stimulate assimilation of Indians into mainstream American society. Individual ownership of land on the European-American model was seen as an essential step. The act also provided that the government would classify as "excess" Indian reservation lands remaining after allotments, and sell those lands on the open market, allowing purchase and settlement by non-Native Americans.
The Dawes Commission, set up under an Indian Office appropriation bill in 1893, was created to try to persuade the Five Civilized Tribes to agree to allotment plans. This commission registered the members of the Five Civilized Tribes on what became known as the Dawes Rolls.
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