Pay to Play Indian

Did you know there was a time when you could pay to be Indian? I’m not sure about the reliability of this information but it has become a common meme about pretend Indians (“pretendians”). 

It may be fashionable to play Indian now, but it was also trendy 125 years ago when people paid $5 apiece for falsified documents declaring them Native on the Dawes Rolls.

The Dawes Rolls were designed to be a definitive citizenship list for the Five Civilized Tribes (Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole). When the rolls became final the lands held by the tribes were to be divided among tribal citizens. Become an Indian, get some land.

‘What we had was simply white people claiming to be Indian,’ [Gregory Smithers] said. ‘They were early wannabes, just like we have today. Five-dollar Indian is just another term for that.’

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