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The Day by Day History of the United States

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Congress Granted Citizenship to All American Indians Born in the U.S.
June 2, 1924

American Indians have long struggled to retain their culture. Until 1924, American Indians were not citizens of the United States. Many American Indians had, and still have, separate nations within the U.S. on designated reservation land. But on June 2, 1924, Congress granted citizenship to all American Indians born in the U.S. Yet even after the Indian Citizenship Act, some American Indians weren't allowed to vote because the right to vote was governed by state law. Until 1957, some states barred American Indians from voting.

At the time of the Indian Citizenship Act, an act called the Dawes Severalty Act shaped U.S. Indian policy. Since 1887, the government had encouraged American Indians to become more like mainstream America. Hoping to turn Indians into farmers, the federal government gave out tribal lands to individuals in 160-acre parcels. Unclaimed or "surplus" land was sold, and the money was used to establish Indian schools. In them, American Indian children learned reading, writing, and social habits of mainstream America. By 1932, the sale of unclaimed land and allotted land resulted in the loss of two-thirds of the 138 million acres American Indians had held prior to the Act.

A 1928 study known as the Meriam Report assessed the problems of American Indians. The report revealed to the government that its policies had oppressed American Indians and destroyed their culture and society. The people suffered from poverty, exploitation and discrimination. This study spurred the passage of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. This Act returned some of the surplus land to American Indians and urged tribes to engage in active self-government. The U.S. government invested in the development of health care, education and community structure. Quality of life on Indian lands improved. Today some American Indians run successful businesses, while others still live in poverty.

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