Indian Citizenship Act centennial: 2024

What it means to be an Indian Nation today

CitizenshipBannerThe status of the Native American or American Indian in the United States is most peculiar. This article reminded me that the centennial of the Indian Citizenship Act is coming up in 2024.

As you may know, Article I, Section 2 reads: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other Persons.”

Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have Power To… regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

Even the Fourteenth Amendment notes: “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.”

Silent Cal

From the article: “The Indian Citizenship Act [was] signed into law on June 2, 1924, by President Calvin Coolidge. As the very title of the legislation states, the act made all Indians in the United States citizens of the United States.”

According to the act, … all noncitizen 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.

“The debate [following the 14th Amendment] was so pronounced that the Senate Judiciary Committee pondered the issue. In 1870 it rendered its verdict:

… the 14th amendment to the Constitution has no effect whatever upon the status of the Indian tribes within the limits of the United States…

“Strangely enough in the infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857, the frequently reviled Chief Justice Roger Taney had argued that American Indians could, in fact, become citizens. The caveat was that it had to be under congressional and legal supervision. In 1924, that is exactly what Congress did.”

This leads to some interesting arguments about how “to address what it means to be an Indian Nation today in the 21st century.” Read some more about the implications of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.