Indian Citizenship Act
Congress enacts the Dawes Act. The whole purpose was to dismantle the American Indian Tribes and annihilate their traditions so that they would become assimilated into white American society.
U.S. government uses the Dawes Act to claim and redistribute tribal lands in small parcels. Tribal members are granted US citizienship in trade for accepting the allotment of land offered. The Dawes Act also provides funds to missionaries for ‘reeducation.’ American Indian children are sent to schools that would Christianize them and teach them Euro-American culture.
Fifth grade student essay answering the prompt "what makes a good citizen" from the Leech Lake Indian Boarding School. The essay was written between 1917-1920.
Image courtesy of Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75.
It takes money to do all these things and the citizens who own property have to pay taxes.
Native Americans are granted citizenship and the right to vote through the Indian Citizenship Act, regardless of tribal affiliation.
After the first generation of American Indian children passed through the re-education system, the American Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 is passed. Tribal members who had not yet become citizens became naturalized citizens of the United States. While they were able to become citizens, this did not guarantee their right to vote in the elections. Some arguments that are used against Native American suffrage include they could not vote because they did not pay real estate taxes and if they still held tribal affiliation, then they are not full citizens.
Image courtesy of National Photo Company Collection - Library of Congress
Meet Those Who Fought for American Indian Citizenship Rights
Zitkala-Ša (1876-1938), also known as her missionary given name, Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was a part of the Yankton Dakota Sioux tribe. When she was eight years old, a Quaker missionary visited the reservation her and her mother lived on, taking Zitkala-Ša and other children with them to a missionary school. During her time at the school, she wrote about her conflicted experiences. Later on in her life, she would end up publishing two books on American Indian culture and folklore along with the first Native American written opera. During her time on the Uintah-Ouray reservation in Utah, she joined the Society of American Indians (SAI) and became the secretary. She and her husband then moved to Washington DC. and she continued to work with SAI where she was colleagues with Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin. Her work with SAI promoted Native American rights and gave her a platform to be critical of assimilation but to also argue for American Indian citizenship and naturalization. As original occupants of the land, she argued, Native Americans needed to be represented in the current system of government. In 1926 she and her husband founded the National Council of American Indians, dedicated to the cause of uniting the tribes throughout the U.S. in the cause of gaining full citizenship rights through suffrage. From 1926 until her death in 1938, Zitkala-Ša would serve as president, major fundraiser, and speaker for the NCAI.
Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin
Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin (1863-1952), a tribal member of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians of North Dakota, was a Native American lawyer. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed her as a clerk in the Office of Indian Affairs. During this time in her life, she believed in assimilation as a way to survive. This changed, though, as she started to become more involved in the suffrage movement and Society of American Indians. This shift can be seen in the photo on the left. In a radical act, Baldwin decided to wear a traditional Native dress and braid her hair in her official government personnel file, which was taken in 1911. In 1912, at the age of 49, she was the first woman of color and Native American to graduate to earn a law degree from Washington College of Law. As an active member of the suffrage movement, she and a group of other female lawyers joined the Suffrage Parade in Washington D.C. in 1913. Baldwin disengaged with the Office of Indian Affairs in 1918 or 1919 but continued to be an advocate for Native American and women’s rights until her death in 1952.
Carlos Montezuma (1866-1923), or also known as Wassaja in his native language, was a Yavapai-Apache Native American doctor and activist. He was the first Native American to attend the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. After receiving his doctorate of medicine from Chicago Medical College, he went to the Carlisle Indian School in 1893 and became the resident physician. During his time at the school, he worked with Richard Henry Pratt, a supporter of assimilation and founder of the Carlisle Indian School. His experience with Pratt and working on various reservations inspired him to become an activist for American Indian rights. In 1911, he helped found the Society of American Indians and even began a monthly magazine, titled Wassaja, which helped was used as a platform to spread his views on Native American civil rights, citizenship, and education.
President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965, protecting American citizens right to vote, including Native Americans.
Native Americans continue to face challenges at the voting booth. Native American Voting Rights Act of 2019 is waiting to pass the House of Representatives.
(Above right) A letter for citizens to fill out and write to their state senator's about their concerns over the re-education of American Indian Children. Written in 1977, the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was passed by Congress in 1978, sought to place Indian children in homes of their own cultures, as well as reunite them with their families.
Florida Gulf Coast University Bradshaw Library's Archives and Special Collections Permanent Collection.
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