On June 2, 1924, some 125,000 men, women, and children were granted United States citizenship. Why so many all at once? Did a whole fleet of immigrant ships arrive at Ellis Island? No, it turns out these folks were already here, and had been here for a long, long time:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, 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: Provided That the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property.
Approved, June 2, 1924. June 2, 1924. [H. R. 6355.] [Public, No. 175.]
SIXTY-EIGHTH CONGRESS. Sess. I. CHS. 233. 1924.
Signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge, who as you can see got a photo op out of the whole thing. So if they weren't citizens the day before June 2, what exactly were they? Uh, foreigners. At least the separate tribes were considered foreign nations, and the members of the tribes considered citizens of those nations. And the foreign soil on which these citizens inhabited? There it gets, and remains, complicated. While according to US law the soil has always been under some sort of US jurisdiction, some sort of US sovereignty, by 1924 such foreigners lived on especially set aside tribal lands, better known as "reservations", the result of bloody wars and treaties signed to end those wars, almost always on terms favorable to the United States government. Incidentally, that 125,000 number wasn't the whole of the indigenous population. At the time there were 300,000 Indians, or if you will, Native Americans, living within the borders of the USA. 275,000 of them were already citizens, having become so by either joining the military to fight in World War I or simply by giving up tribal affiliations, and entering the American mainstream, i.e., forgoing the concept of communal ownership in favor of private property (the pretext for European excursions onto non-European lands that had been going on for centuries.) After June 2, all it took for a Native American to become nationalized was to be born on national soil. The tribal lands were still theirs, too. So, then, does that mean Indians have dual citizenship? Technically no, because they can't have their own military or their own currency. They can make their own laws on their own lands, as long as those laws don't contradict the United States Constitution. Native Americans have been known to chafe under these conditions, but not any more so, in fact maybe even less, than some present-day nonindigenous Republicans.
Thanks for the history lesson, good buddy. 98 years ago, it seems like we were making strides in the right direction. It blows my mind to think that indigenous people are suddenly classified as foreigners living on foreign soil after the white man invades their territory, takes it by force and calls it his own.
That photo op reminds me of one I'd like to share with you. In fact, history tells us that the term "photo op" aka "photo opp" aka "photo opportunity, " was coined by the administration of US President Richard Nixon:
Quote of the Day: "God bless America!" - Denny Crane
Shady, Nixon was just trying to show that wasn't anti-Sematic.Delete
All kidding aside, there's this:
I may be anti-spelling.
Nixon also had a black heart... so there's that.Delete
Many indigenous people do regard themselves as sovereign nationals who also have (Canadian/US) citizenship so yes, "dual citizenship." It's one of the reasons some don't "recognize" the Canada/US border as applying to their free movement back and forth where tribal presence is historically in both countries -- e.g. the Sioux and Mohawks.ReplyDelete
Interesting, Debra. I admit that it did not occur to me that indigenous people might be, or should be, considered citizens of both the US and Canada. The shapes of our respective nation-states are so pounded into our skulls at such an early age, that it's easy to forget that both are human constructs rather than fixed geography.Delete
Thank you, Mitchell.Delete
What did "Native Americans" call America before it was America? Turtle Island. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lqOHCCqLck&t=438sReplyDelete
Mike, what I found most interesting about that video was the part that dealt with indigenous people living in what we now call Panama. They saw just how close the Atlantic and Pacific oceans come within walking distance of each other long before the Europeans did.Delete
I expect it may be an urban myth, but I was told our Aborigines we counted and listed under fauna in the flora and fauna statistics before their automatic citizenship happened.ReplyDelete
I do hope that it is a myth, Andrew. Call me an idealist, but I'd like to think that European settlers, even at their most racist, could still tell the difference between a human being and a plant.Delete
Thank you for this! I still can't wrap my head around how this all went down and how they were treated.ReplyDelete
I remember the history lessons from second and third grade where we wore pilgrim caps or made Indian headdresses and talked about the very friendly Thanksgiving dinner where everyone became friends!
JM, that first Thanksgiving obviously was a high point in white man-red man relations.Delete