Indian Law

AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY my grandfather, Simon Ridge WalkingStick, a lawyer in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, was hired as a Cherokee interpreter for the implementation of the Curtis Act, which parceled out “Indian Territory” to those individual tribal members who would allow themselves to be numbered and registered. The land that remained after this parceling was then given or sold to white homesteaders and businesses, Indian Territory was no more, and Oklahoma became a state. My grandfather took the job because he saw the inevitability of statehood and wanted to get his tribe the fairest shake possible. He wanted to ensure that those registrants who spoke only Cherokee knew exactly what they were signing.

Many Cherokees, however, didn’t sign. Some lived outside Indian Territory and felt they had nothing to gain by making the trip to Tahlequah. Others mistrusted white people—the Trail of Tears

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