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Petition from residents of Columbus, Ohio, regarding citizenship for American Indians, May 1924

While citizens of their own sovereign tribes, most American Indians were historically excluded from U.S. citizenship. In this petition, nine individuals from Ohio stated that the Great War gave further “proof” of American Indians’ bravery and loyalty and called for citizenship to be granted to all American Indians.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Petition from residents of Columbus, Ohio - Image 1 Petition from residents of Columbus, Ohio - Image 2

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