American Indian Annuity Rolls

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One of the most common stipulations of a treaty with a tribe of American Indians was the provision of an annual payment to be made to that tribe.

Prior to 1834, such payments were often made to the chiefs of the tribe who distrbuted the funds as they wished. From 1834 to 1875, payments to some tribes were made to heads of families. After 1875, payment of the annuity to heads of families and some individuals became mandatory (March 3, 1875, 18 Stat. L., 449).

Many of the earlier records, especially those made to the leaders of the tribe, consisted of a receipt filed with the general correspondence of the offices overseeing Indian Affairs. When payments began to be made to heads of families, annuity payment rolls (which contain the names of those family heads) began to be kept. The National Archives has a very large collection of these annuity rolls (at least 959 volumes), which have not been microfilmed or otherwise made available outside of the National Archives Building in Washington D.C. They are arranged alphabetically by name of tribe, band or jurisdiction and thereunder chronologically.

Copies of some annuity rolls remained in the custody of the local BIA agents and can be found at the local Agency Office. Some of the Agency Office records may also have been transferred to a regional archives of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

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