Challenging boundaries and belongings: “Mixed blood” allotment disputes at the turn of the twentieth century

Lauren Basson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Introduction: In 1890, Jane Waldron, a woman of American Indian and European descent, asserted that as an Indian head of family, she was eligible for a full allotment of land that had previously formed part of the Great Sioux Reservation. Her claim initiated a local, legal dispute that quickly escalated into a national debate about land allotment policies conducted at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Black Tomahawk, a “full blood” Indian, contested Waldron's claim. His lawyer argued that Waldron was not an Indian but a white woman, on the basis of the common law of paternal descent. In the initial decision in the case, the Secretary of the Interior accepted the latter position and ruled that Waldron was not an Indian and, therefore, ineligible for an allotment. This decision met with immediate opposition because it implied that thousands of indigenous people of American Indian and European descent, commonly referred to as “mixed bloods,” who had signed Indian treaties with the U.S. government, were not Indians either and, therefore, may not have been eligible signatories. The Secretary's decision thus had the potential to threaten the validity of many treaties concluded with Indian tribes, and it never achieved the status of legal precedent. In 1905, fifteen years after the dispute began, a district court judge in South Dakota reversed the initial decision and asserted that Waldron was an Indian and, therefore, was eligible for the contested allotment.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBoundaries and Belonging
Subtitle of host publicationStates and Societies in the Struggle to Shape Identities and Local Practices
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9780511510304
ISBN (Print)0521835666, 9780521835664
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)


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