A 1919 bill approved by a House committee would have given Native Americans full citizenship rights. Alas, it took another five years to be enacted into law.
It is the position of those Indians who have attained citizenship after an arduous struggle for their rights that the shackles of paternalism have been on their race long enough. On the average, they say, the Indian is just as well equipped to look after himself as is the man of any other strain. Sometimes, they add, he is much better equipped than many of the aliens who have in recent years landed on these shores.
And needless to say, the 1919 headline referring to “the red man” is certainly anachronistic to modern ears.
The article also mentions that the Native American population at the time was 336,243, or about 0.3% of the U.S. population.
Since that time, the group’s percentage of the population has at minimum tripled. The 2010 Census had the “American Indian and Native Alaskan alone” population at 2.9 million, or 0.9% of the population. If including people who listed themselves as American Indian or Native Alaskan in combination with other races, the number rises to 5.2 million, or 1.7% of the population.
Rep. Charles D. Carter (D-OK3) introduced the 1919 bill, which passed the House Committee on Indian Affairs. But it would take another five years until the Indian Citizenship Act would become law, after being introduced by Rep. Homer P. Snyder (R-NY33) — hence the law’s colloquial name of the Snyder Act.
However, many states kept dragging their feet for decades afterwards. New Mexico became the last state to allow Native Americans to vote in 1962.
In fact, a number of racist federal laws dealing with Native Americans are still technically on the books today. These include laws which allow for forced labor of Native Americans and for the president to unilaterally declare any federal government treaty with a tribe as null and void.
Just this week, I wrote an article for GovTrack Insider about the RESPECT Act, which would repeal all or part of 11 such laws. It’s bipartisan legislation with the full title Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act.
Self-Determination for American Red Man: Native Race Proposed for Full Citizenship in a Bill Now Before Congress
Published: Sunday, August 10, 1919