Every Native American A Citizen

June 16, 2016

7d5587ff-86a5-46d8-a83e-68a33a2aee52The history of the U.S. Government’s relationship with the indigenous peoples of North America has long been fraught with much difficulty and tragedy. There are many things we all wish had been done differently, or not at all.

Yet in the face of that legacy President Calvin Coolidge stepped forward with a gesture of reconciliation to amend the hurt feelings of history. On June 2, 1924 Coolidge signed his name to the Indian Citizenship Act. This law very succinctly declared that “all non citizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States.”

Native Americans had demonstrated their loyalty to the United States through their service in the First World War. They contributed in integrated units, traversing the continent in defense of America’s cause. As Indian citizenship proponent Dr. Joseph Dixon wrote at the time “…The Indian who has suffered a thousand wrongs considered the white man’s burden and from mountains, plains and divides, the Indian threw himself into the struggle to help throttle the unthinkable tyranny of the Hun…Now, shall we not redeem ourselves by redeeming all the tribes?”

Coolidge made other attempts to smooth over the U.S. Government’s relationship with the Native peoples. He lamented the grinding poverty which afflicted most tribes, and readily posed with four Osage tribal leaders in a photograph taken right after the signing of the law. In 1923 he met with a prominent committee dealing with Native affairs, and a legation from the Rosebud Reservation visited him at the White House in 1925. In 1927 he was formally thanked by the Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, which made him an honorary tribal member with the Indian name “Chief Leading Eagle.”

President Coolidge understood the importance of embracing all Americans as part of our national fabric. His accomplishments continue to inspire Americans today.

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3 Responses to “Every Native American A Citizen”

  1. Sherry Bolton

    Thank you for your interesting article. Last fall, my husband and I were on a tour, and visited the President Coolidge museum in his home town in Vermount. It so happened, we saw
    numerous photos and the headdress given by the Sioux Tribe to President Coolidge.

  2. Tamara

    During my research for my political science paper, I came across this page. Such a touching subject, considering that I am Native American.
    Very informative. Thank you abundantly for addressing native people.

  3. Ruth Coolidge Masden

    I am a distant cousin of this President. When I was a little girl I met his son John up in Vermont and had him sign my autograph book. I have a Uncle Calvin, a Uncle John, a brother Calvin and a nephew Calvin Coolidge. My grandpa was Clifford Coolidge who’s Mother could only speak German and that particular branch of the family came down from Canada into the Wisconsin Dells /Baraboo area. I’ve always loved that I was a relative and a strong conservative and my Dad..Curtis Clifford Coolidge loved and had a animal menagerie and was a preacher. I LOVE that he had a heart for the Native Americans. I was born in Phoenix and my Dad and family would go out to the Navajo reservation and have revival meetings. I always thought I’d marry an Indian. I did not. 🙂 I love that the President’s honorary Indian name was Chief Leading Eagle.!!! We MUST bring them back to their rightful position of honor in this country.!! Sincerely Ruth Coolidge Masden.

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