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Henry Laurens Dawes

Samuel Montague Fassett, 1825 - 2 Aug 1910
Henry Laurens Dawes, 30 Oct 1816 - 5 Feb 1903
c. 1876
Albumen silver print
Image: 24 x 19.6cm (9 7/16 x 7 11/16")
Mat: 55.9 x 40.6cm (22 x 16")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number
Exhibition Label
In 1887, when Henry L. Dawes introduced and secured passage of the General Allotment Act (also known as the Dawes Act), the Massachusetts senator believed that he had taken an important step in helping Native Americans toward a better future. Aimed at promoting their assimilation into American society, the bill dissolved the legal standing of tribal nations and divided communally held lands into individual holdings. Dawes had been raised in a farming family and, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, he believed that Native Americans would be more secure as property-owning farmers. Ultimately, the General Allotment Act proved an extraordinary failure. Not only did it disregard the great heterogeneity of tribal communities, but it also resulted in the permanent loss of millions of acres of traditional Native lands. The bill was ultimately overturned in 1934 with the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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