Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.
President Calvin Coolidge with four Osage Indians after Coolidge signed the bill granting Indians full citizenship.

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.”

RELATED: Dismembering Natives: The Violence Done by Citizenship Fights

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.

RELATED: Indigenous and 21st Century Nationalisms

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howard leslie's picture
howard leslie
Submitted by howard leslie on
can we have it both way? as the holistic nations with powers of self-government and territorial rights as indigenous free nations. then turn around and win the right to vote in this nation ?what will we say if the whites want to vote in our nation election.

hidomullen's picture
Submitted by hidomullen on
Douglas Mullen The Citizenship Act was nothing more then a con job on all levels of governance, Federal, State, and local. The intent was to absorb any/all lands being held by Indian entities. This act would allow the U.S. to claim any lands it deemed to be profitable or "Of best public value" (BPV). Being a Mountain Maidu, of northern California, and working for the Maidu Summit Consortium, I have seen this small, yet seeming harmless phrase, written into all developed programs the local Native American have entered into involving the PG&E and other government agencies. It has been used as a means to further displace the Nave American community from their once ancestral lands. I see this as an extension of the "Indian Removal Act", where the Native American was forced to move west in order for the U.S. to expand. If one were to look at Native American legislation passed to help the Native American, one can see that it has had the opposite affect. No greater example of this is the Boarding school institution developed to assimilate Native Americans into white society. History hasn't been kind to the Native Americans in the Americas, there isn't any push for social justice for them. We are the forever forgotten greatest holocaust victims ever known in world history.

JohnJr Glasgow
JohnJr Glasgow
Submitted by JohnJr Glasgow on can't vote in your own Native Lands! And it's STILL a slow change comin'. Sad.

eric loret's picture
eric loret
Submitted by eric loret on
c est quand même maleureux qu il a fallut attendre 1924 pour leurs donné la nationnalité américaine , alors qu ils etaient chez eux