Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Farm, Field and Fireside: Indian Lands

A guide to the Farm, Field and Fireside collection of farm periodicals. Covers the subject of Indian lands during the period of allotment (1887-1934).

Public Land Policy

"Agriculture expanded between 1895 and 1920 as white Americans and European immigrants settled land newly taken from Native American peoples in the West."1


Three short articles on "Public Lands": West's Encyclopedia of American Law, Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, and Oxford Companion to United States History.
Government Land Policy. Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. Ed. Thomas Carson. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1999. 390-392.

In Farm, Field, and Fireside

This can be a difficult topic to research because it tends to be abstract and general. Still, the topic would have been important to many readers, and you will find articles documenting how the government acquired, managed, and disposed of public lands. Try keywords: "Public lands", "public grazing"; "forest reserves"; "government lands"; "pre-emption".

Homestead Act

"The Homestead Act allows U.S. citizens to apply for title to 160 acres of land in present-day Kansas and Nebraska [...] Over the next 18 years, the act will grant more than 100,000 whites title to land formerly held by Indians. It will also influence the allotment of Indian land, by establishing 160 acres as a suitable amount of land for individual homesteads."2


"Homestead Act of 1862." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. Ed. Shirelle Phelps and Jeffrey Lehman. Vol. 5. 2d ed. Detroit: Gale, 2005. 281-282.
Huston, James L. "Homestead Act (1862)." Major Acts of Congress. Ed. Brian K. Landsberg. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan, 2004. 170-175 
Larson, William E., and Marijke Rijsberman. "Homestead Act (1862)." Environmental Encyclopedia. 3d ed. Ed. Marci Bortman, Peter Brimblecombe, and Mary Ann Cunningham. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 722.

In Farm, Field, and Fireside

Terms: "Homestead Act".

Although the Homestead Act predates most of the periodicals in Farm, Field, and Fireside, you'll still find many references to it throughout the collection. Furthermore, it was a very influential piece of legislation, and you'll better understand subsequent developments in Indian Land policy if you take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with it.

Other Sources

"Homestead Act." May 20, 1862. 37th Cong., 2d sess. United States Statutes at Large 12, ch.75, pp.392-393.
"An act to secure homesteads to actual settlers on the public domain."
Text of the statute and background documents available online at:
For detailed legislative histories of the Homestead Act, consult American Landmark Legislation (Ed. Irving J. Sloan), and History of Public Land Law Development (by Paul W. Gates).


"Allotment--the division of tribal lands among individual Indians--became the dominant theme in federal Indian policy in the years between 1887 and 1934 [...] Reformers hoped that by carving up reservations and making small farmers of the Indians, they could effectively detribalize and assimilate the Indians into American culture. This policy also attracted support from those who wanted to open up tribal lands for settlement or explotation."3


Hoxie, Frederick. "Dawes Act." Encyclopedia of North American Indians. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. 154.
Schwartz, E.A. "What Were the Results of Allotment?" Native American Documents Project. San Marcos, Calif.: California State University. (accessed September 1, 2015).

In Farm, Field, and Fireside

Allotment was the land policy with which the federal government broke up reserved Indian lands, making them available for settlement by Americans. While you'll find some articles dealing directly with allotment, you'll find many more in which it forms an unacknowledged backdrop. For example, the article "Indians Turning Farmers" does not mention allotment by name, but the writer cleary invokes the civilizing influences of allotment. Begin with keyword searches like allotment* AND indian*.

Other Sources

"General Allotment Act." Feb. 8, 1887. 49th Cong., 2d sess. United States Statutes at Large 24, pt. 2, ch. 119, pp. 388-391.
Text of the statute available online at:​
Also referred to as "Dawes Bill", "Dawes Act", "Dawes Severalty Act", and "Land Severalty Bill."
Statutes at Large 24 available online. (For this act, jump to page 412 in the PDF.)
The Problem of Indian Administration: Report of a Survey Made at the Request of Honorable Hubert Work, Secretary of the Interior, and Submitted to Him, February 21, 1928.
          Also called the "Meriam Report".
Findings suggested that allotment was the chief cause of poverty and other social problems among Indians.
Reprinted in 1971 by the Brookings Institution.
Text available online at:
"Indian Reorganization Act." June 18, 1934. 73d Cong., 2d Sess. United States Statutes at Large 48, pt. 1, ch. 576, pp. 984-988.
"An act to conserve and develop Indian lands and resources."
Also referred to as "Wheeler-Howard Act", and "Indian New Deal."
Ended the policy allotment.
Statutes at Large 48 available online. (For this act, jump to page 1010 in the PDF.)

Other Events

Indian Appropriations Act of 1871

"Indian Appropriation Act." March 3, 1871. 41st Cong., 3d sess. United States Statutes at Large 16.3, ch.120, pp.544-570.
"An act making appropriations for the current and contingent Expenses of the Indian Department."
This act includes the rider: "Hereafter no Indian nation or tribe within the territory of the United States shall be acknowledged or recognized as an independent nation, tribe, or power with whom the United States may contract by treaty" (566).
Statutes at Large 16 also available online. (For the rider prohibiting treaties with Indian tribes, jump to page 599 in the PDF.)
Tischauser, Leslie V. "Indian Appropriation Act." American Indian History. Vol. 1. Ed. Carole A. Barrett. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2003. 184-887.

Further Reading

Conaway, James. The Kingdom in the Country. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.
"An attempt to provide from four points of view the natural legacy of the nation's public land policy" (from the Southwestern Historical Quarterly review by Wilson F. Dolman).
Hilliard, Sam B. "Indian Land Cessions West of the Mississippi." Journal of the West. 10.3 (1971): 493-510.
See also Indian land cessions, reprinted from the Map Supplement to the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 62, no. 2 (June, 1972): 374.
Holm, Tom. "Indian Treaties and Congresses." Oxford Companion to American Military History. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. 329-31.

           McDonnell, Janet A. The Dispossession of the American Indian, 1887-1934. Bloominton, Ind.: Indiana UP, 1991.

Sutton, Imre. Indian Land Tenure: Bibliographical Essays and a Guide to the Literature. New York: Clearwater Publishing, 1975.