Indigenous Self-Determination

Friday, January 6, 2017: 11:10 AM
Mile High Ballroom 2B (Colorado Convention Center)
K. Tsianina Lomawaima, Arizona State University
Despite the inherent sovereignty of Native nations, by 1831 the federal government treated American Indians as wards. By the early 1900s, diverse voices argued for U.S. citizenship for all American Indians. Historians agree that the motivation to clearly define U.S. citizenship arose when African American slaves were emancipated and enfranchised by the 14th (1868) and 15th(1870) amendments. Those achievements – and resistance to them, e.g. Jim Crow segregation – triggered intense debates over access to citizenship. At the turn of the last century, U.S. citizenship was not a settled question, as the timeline shows.

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act

1884 Elk v. Wilkins: 14thamendment does not apply to American Indians

1898 U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark: citizenship based on place of birth, not just race

1919 19thAmendment to the Constitution: women enfranchised

1923 U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind: Asian Indians ineligible for citizenship, only

free whites can be naturalized

1924 American Indian Citizenship Act

Johnson Immigration Exclusion Act

Conversations about American Indians as possible citizens were part of a broader process delineating the rights and responsibilities of the unmarked full citizen (the white, propertied male) and they were mirrored by analogous conversations about the status of Native nations: as domestic dependents versus self-determining sovereigns. These U.S. conversations took place in a global context. I hope to speak to a few of the ways that American Indian, U.S., and world histories intertwined in the early 20th century.

See more of: Global Indigenous History
See more of: AHA Sessions