Definitions & Terminology


Originally the Office of Indian Affairs, or Indian Agency.  


Subdivision of a tribe


Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs in the United States

Blood Quantum

Degree of Indian Blood

CBID (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood)

A record of the blood quantum for an individual. Each tribe determines the official blood quantum that is required to be recognized by that tribe.

Dawes Commission

The US Congress approved the Act on March 3, 1893.  The purpose was to negotiate treaties with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole tribes  The aim was to divide tribal land into plots which were then distributed to approved members of the tribe.

Dawes Roles

The enrollment record for the Five Civilized Tribes, compiled between 1895 and 1914.

Enrollment Records

The Federal Government wanted to classify all Indians into a tribe for the purpose of negotiating treaties with those tribes.  One example is the Dawes Roles.

Five Civilized Tribes

A loose federation of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole tribes formed in 1859 in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).

General Allotment Act of 1887

An Act passed by the United States government by which specific parcels of land were allotted to individual Indians on many of the reservations.

Indian Agent

The individual authorized to interact with Indian tribes on behalf of the US Government. This term/position existed until the turn of the 20th century. In the 1880’s the instruction to agents stated their job duties included:

  • See that Indians in one's designated locality are not "idle for want of an opportunity to labor or of instructions as to how to go to work," and
  • absolutely "no work must be given to white men which can be done by Indians"
  • See to it that the Indians under one's jurisdiction can farm successfully and solely for the subsistence of their respective family
  • Enforce prohibition of liquor
  • Both provide and supervise the instruction of English education and industrial training for Indian children
  • Allow Indians to leave the reservation only if they have acquired a permit for such (permits were only irregularly granted)
  • And as of July 1884, Indian agents were to compile an annual report of their reservations for submission aimed at collecting the following information from Indian respondents: Indian name, English name, Relationship, Sex, and Name among other statistical information


After the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, this term is used to mean a tribe which had organized under the Act.

Office of Indian Affairs

The forerunner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.


An official US Government policy in the early to mid-1800's intended to remove American Indians from areas where conflict between them and non-Indian settlers may have arisen.  


A parcel of land reserved by the US Government upon which a tribe or tribes were to reside.


Agreements between governments and the Indian tribes. There are treaties between tribes and the US Government, the Canadian Government and the British Government. 


A term applied by non-Indians to a group of Indians, usually of a common linguistic or cultural group.