Native History: Citizenship Thrust Upon Natives by U.S. Congress
This Date in Native History: On June 2, 1924, Congress granted United States citizenship to Native Americans born in the United States. But even after the Indian Citizenship Act passed, some Native Americans weren’t allowed to vote because the right to vote was governed by state law.
Until the Indian Citizenship Act, some had married white men to become citizens, or served in the military. As the National Park Service says, the act was a move by the federal government to absorb Indians into mainstream American life.
But David E. Wilkins points out in his column “Dismembering Natives: The Violence Done by Citizenship Fights” Natives did not ask for citizenship, it was “thrust upon them without their consent” and “they retained citizenship in their own tribal nations.”
As Wilkins says though, Natives have only been citizens in their tribes, states and the U.S. for 52 years. “Interestingly, many states were long reluctant to act in kind and only when Utah allowed the Native vote in 1962 were Indians finally considered citizens by every state,” Wilkins said.
Many Indigenous Peoples have always seen governance differently than their white counterparts. Duane Champagne discusses that in his column “Indigenous and 21st Century Nationalisms.”
“While nation states prefer to recognize only individual citizens, Indigenous Peoples want to be recognized as the holistic nations with powers of self-government and territorial rights,” Champagne says.
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