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Joe High Elk, Cheyenne River Sioux, List of Indians in the World War Questionnaire, ca. 1919–1920

Joe High Elk enlisted in the Army during World War I and served as a gunner in France. In this questionnaire, he recalled how he fought in battles at Château Thierry, the Argonne Forest, and Saint-Mihiel. American Indian rights advocate Joseph Dixon distributed the questionnaires to document American Indian soldiers’ patriotism and loyalty during the war and champion their right to citizenship.

Mathers Museum of World Cultures

Joe High Elk, Cheyenne River Sioux, List of Indians in the World War Questionnaire

Granting Citizenship to American Indians

On June 2, 1924, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, which was also known as the Snyder Act. It was named after the bill’s sponsor, Representative Homer P. Snyder of New York. The act granted citizenship to all American Indians born in the United States. American Indians had volunteered and served in World War I in large numbers, and citizenship was seen in part as a reward for their military service. At the time, 125,000 out of an estimated population of 300,000 American Indians were not U.S. citizens.

I am an Indian and never had any Experience in a war before, but I realize that I was doing my duty as a patriot and was fighting to save Democracy and do hope that in the future we Indian’s may Enjoy freedom which we Indian’s are always denied.

Joe High Elk, Cheyenne River Sioux, List of Indians in the World War Questionnaire, ca. 1919–1920