Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

A Century Ago, This Law Underscored the Promises and Pitfalls of Native American Citizenship

When Calvin Coolidge's motorcade arrived in the southwestern corner of South Dakota on August 17, 1927, he became the first United States president to make an official visit to a reservation. As the New York Times reported, Coolidge appeared in front of "10,000 Sioux Indians as supreme chief"-a nod to a recent ceremony that had awarded him the Lakota name Wanblí Tokáhe, which translates to "Leading Eagle."

Addressing the crowd at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that summer day, Coolidge spoke of his "satisfaction" at having signed an "epoch-making law," one that "symbolized the consummation of what for many years had been the purpose of the federal government-to merge the Indians into the general citizenry and body politic of the nation."

The law that Coolidge praised was the Indian Citizenship Act, which he'd enacted three years earlier, on June 2, 1924. A century old this week, the legislation stated that "all noncitizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States" were now citizens.


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