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Vernellia R. Randall
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The University of Dayton

 

   
   

 

 

Robert B. Porter

The Demise of the Ongwehoweh and the Rise of the Native Americans: Redressing the Genocidal Act of Forcing American Citizenship upon Indigenous Peoples, 15 Harv. BlackLetter L.J. 107-183 (1999)(citations  omitted).

Editor's note: This article has over 400 footnotes. The footnotes have been edited out for presentation in this forum. I encourage you to see the original article for not only the scholarly documentation but the extensive explanations that Professor Porter  provided in his footnotes. 

I. America's Crusade to Wipe Out the Savages

A. Citizenship and Early Federal Indian Control Policies

Upon the founding of the American Republic, it was well acknowledged that the Indians were citizens of their own nations separate and apart from the United States. This was an easily drawn conclusion because most Indians were located outside the territorial boundary of the original thirteen states. As a result, early relations with the Indian nations were based upon the discourse of international relations and were reflected by the primary instrument of international law-treaties. This was an acknowledgment of both the legal status of the Indian nations as well as the practical limitations associated with the federal government's lack of power. Following the Revolutionary War, it was simply impossible for the new United States to address Indian affairs in any other way.

The first half of the eighteenth century saw the United States emerge as the dominant continental power. The Indian nations resisted the onslaught of American military and economic power but were ultimately unsuccessful. They were thus made subject to policies that effectuated forced removal, confiscation of lands, and relocation to "reservations."

These policy developments were not surprising, since for nearly 300 years, the American mentality regarding Indians was founded upon the belief that they were uncivilized savages that had to be kept at bay so that "civilization" could thrive. The historian Frederick Hoxie writes that "[t]he belief that savagery was the antithesis of civilization ... fueled American expansion and development by assuring presidents, soldiers, and historians that civilization could only succeed where Indian culture failed." As a result, early American Indian policy focused on controlling the Indian nations and keeping them separate from American society. Indians had to be removed to the West and forced onto reservations simply because their uncivilized nature was viewed as a potent threat to the American way of life.

Associated with the process of removing the Indians to the West, a number of "incentives" were offered, including the grant of American citizenship. Rather than be confronted with the need to remove all of the Indians, it was thought that the burden on the federal government could be lessened if some Indians simplydecided to stay behind and assimilate. Thus, some of the early treaties between the United States and the Indian nations provided that Indians could obtain American citizenship. Against the backdrop of impending forced removal, it could hardly be said that these grants of citizenship were consensual. To receive American citizenship, it was often required that tribal lands be sold, individual allotments issued, and the tribe's status dissolved.

In addition to the treaty process, there were other ways in which Indians could become citizens. Congress began to grant citizenship to Indian tribes through legislation. In other instances, Indians could also obtain American citizenship upon their assimilation and acceptance of the American way of life. Finally, there was the unique case of the Pueblo Indians, who were deemed United States citizens in 1846 by virtue of their failure to elect Mexican citizenship under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo. This was the first instance in which "Native citizens [were] 'permitted' to retain their tribal organization and culture" and thus be considered as dual citizens.

These early instances of granting Indians American citizenship had to overcome two primary legal barriers. The first barrier was that federal naturalization statutes restricted American citizenship to free whites. While there was some ambiguity associated with applying these statutes to Indians, it was generally believed that Indians could not be naturalized. The second was that early citizenship was deemed to be exclusive; because Indians had an allegiance to their own Indigenous nation, they could not become American citizens.

B. Indian Citizenship and the Allotment Era

By the mid-nineteenth century, social reformers, led by missionaries from both Protestant and Catholic denominations, began to agitate for a more humane approach toward Indian relations. The Removal and Reservation Policies had virtually destroyed the way of life of many Indian nations. Disease, dependence, and death were common and the cause of considerable alarm on the part of fair-minded Americans. While the Indian War was still on-going, considerable pressure was put on federal officials to ensure a better quality of life for those Indigenous people who had been neutralized as a military threat to the United States.

President Ulysses S. Grant responded with the adoption of his so- called Peace Policy. This policy focused on assimilating the Indians and otherwise transforming them from "savages" into "civilized" men. This process took the form of converting Indians to Christianity and providing Western education to Indian children, with the federal government expending considerable sums on building boarding schools and hiring teachers. To accomplish this objective, the federal government gave money directly to Catholic and Protestant churches, in clear violation of the Constitution's prohibition against the establishment of religion. Because missionaries had always been at the forefront of Indian assimilation efforts, federal policymakers eventually concluded that they could be enlisted to effectively take over the administration of Indian affairs. Government support for religious activities in Indian country continued into the early twentieth century and was an instrumental part of the Indian citizenship campaign that was to follow.

By 1880, Congress came to the conclusion that Grant's Peace Policy had failed. Two primary flaws were identified. First, the Policy failed to clearly delineate the status of the Indian nations under American law and policy. While Congress had ended treaty making with the Indian nations in 1871, bilateral agreements continued to be relied upon, complicating the Indian nations' understanding of their legal status. Second, the Peace Policy had failed to bring about Indian assimilation and civilization as quickly as had been hoped. In significant part, this was because "jurisdictional squabbles between Catholics and Protestants had undermined its success." But there were also concerns about whether the policy would even work at all.

Against the backdrop of increasingly violent conflicts between settlers, the Indians and the military, federal policymakers were forced to consider a different policy approach. Two important questions remained. First, would separate Indian enclaves--the reservations--be continued? Second, would the "civilization" program be continued? The answers to both questions turned on the broader question of whether the United States would continue to deal with the Indians as a people separate and apart from the United States. Hoxie explains the foundation for this policy dilemma:

Unlike other minorities, American natives had had a territorial base for their culture within the boundaries of the United States. Prior to 1865 this unique position necessitated a policy of exceptionalism toward Indians. After the Civil War, many native controlled areas disappeared. Nevertheless, the Peace Policy, with its promise of secure reservations and helpful agents, had encouraged the retention of an exceptionalist perspective. By 1880, however, settlers had completely undermined the native land base, and the idealism of the Civil War era had disappeared. Only then did Congress face the issue of exceptionalism as an open question.

Congress was under considerable pressure from two competing interests to resolve this question in favor of ending a separatist approach. The railroads and other business interests were eager to appropriate the remaining Indian lands to promote further Westward expansion. These were extremely powerful forces that were offset and tempered only by the intensity and commitment of the social reformers bent on "helping" the Indians through the perpetuation of their Indian civilization efforts.

One of the most significant players in the campaign to civilize the Indians was the Indian Rights Association. Formed in Philadelphia in 1882, this group of philanthropic minded Americans was responsible for laying the intellectual foundation of the federal government's Indian policy for the next 50 years. The IRA's agenda was unmistakably clear:

The Association seeks to secure the civilization of the ... Indians of the United States ..., and to prepare the way for their absorption into the common life of our people. The Indian as a savage member of a tribal organization cannot survive, ought not to survive, the aggressions of civilization, but his individual redemption from heathenism and ignorance, his transformation from the condition of a savage nomad to that of an industrious American citizen, is abundantly possible.

To implement this agenda, the IRA focused on the enactment of federal legislation to give Indian people Western notions of law, education, and land title.

The members of the IRA were not extremists or religious fanatics, but highly respected members of the intelligentsia with firm convictions about how best to deal with an Indian population that had been so cruelly treated by the American military. One of the leading IRA members was Merrill E. Gates, a former president of Rutgers and Amherst Colleges, who was appointed by President Arthur in 1884 to serve as a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners. He often presided over meetings of the IRA's Lake Mohonk Conference and, by virtue of his position, exercised great influence in its proceedings. His writings reveal the deep commitment that he had to "help" the Indians, but also the great contempt that he had for the traditional Indian way of life.

Because Gates was so influential, his writings read like a Congressional Committee report for the legislation that later followed and are thus worthy of closer examination. Excerpts from one of his more significant writings, "Land and Law as Agents in Educating Indians," best reveals the mentality of those policymakers responsible for the comprehensive plan to assimilate the Indians:

What should the Indian become? To this there is one answer--and but one. He should become an intelligent citizen of the United States. There is no other 'manifest destiny' for any man or any body of men on our domain .... [W]e are, as a matter of course, to seek to fit the Indians among us as we do all other men the responsibilities of citizenship.

[The Indians] are the wards of the Government. Is not a guardian's first duty so as to educate and care for his wards as to make them able to care for themselves? It looks like intended fraud if a guardian persists in such management of his wards and such use of their funds entrusted to him as in the light of experience clearly unfits them and will always keep them unfit for the management of their own affairs and their own property.

Why, if a race inured to toil were cut off from all intercourse with the outside world, and left to roam at large over a vast territory, regularly fed by Government supplies, how many generations would pass before that race would revert to barbarism? We have held [the Indians] at arm's length, cut them off from the teaching power of good example, and given them rations and food to hold them in habits of abject laziness.

We have not seemed to concern ourselves with the question, How can we organize, enforce, and sustain institutions and habits among the Indians which shall civilize and Christianize them? The fine old legend, noblesse oblige, we have forgotten in our broken treaties and our shamefully deficient legislation ....

Two peculiarities which mark the Indian life, if retained, will render his progress slow, uncertain and difficult. These are: (1) The tribal organization. (2) The Indian reservation. I am satisfied that no man can carefully study the Indian question without the deepening conviction that these institutions must go if we would save the Indian from himself.

The tribal organization, with its tenure of land in common, with its constant divisions of good and rations per capita without regard to service rendered, cuts the nerve of all that manful effort which political economy teaches us proceeds from the desire for wealth. True ideas of property with all the civilizing influences that such ideas excite are formed only as the tribal relation is outgrown ....

We must as rapidly as possible break up the tribal organization and give them law, with the family and land in severalty as its central idea. We must not only give them law, we must force law upon them. We must not only offer them education, we must force education upon them. Education will come to them by complying with the forms and the requirements of the law.

Lessons in law for the Indian should begin with the developing and the preservation, by law, of those relations of property and of social intercourse which spring out of and protect the family. First of all, he must have land in severalty. Land in severalty, on which to make a home for his family. This land the Government should, where necessary, for a few years hold in trust for him or his heirs, inalienable and unchargeable. But it shall be his. It shall be patented to him as an individual.

Among the parts of the reservation to be so assigned to Indians in severalty retain alternate ranges or townships for white settlers .... Let especial advantages in price of land, and in some cases a small salary be offered, to induce worthy farmers thus to settle among the Indians as object- teachers of civilization. Let the parts of the reservations not needed by the Government for the benefit of the Indians, and the money thus realized be used to secure this wise intermingling of the right kind of civilized men with the Indians. Over all, extend the law of the States and Territories, and let Indian and white man stand alike before the law.

Christian missionaries, teachers, and farmers among the Indians, and the awakening of moral thoughtfulness among our people about Indian rights are the means to the civilization of the Indian; proper legislation devised and enforced by these must be the method; and the intelligent citizenship of the Indian will be the result.

So powerful was the influence of Gates and the IRA that within a few years Congress abandoned Grant's failed Peace Policy and adopted a new policy designed to accomplish the two-fold mission of promoting Indian assimilation while at the same time furthering westward expansion.

In 1887, in furtherance of this agenda, Congress adopted the Allotment Policy with the enactment of the General Allotment Act. Sponsored by Senator Henry Dawes, the Allotment Act mandated a process by which Indian common lands would be allocated to individual Indians with the "surplus" land sold off to White settlers. Under the Act, individual Indian allotments were to be held in protected government trust status for twenty-five years and could not be taxed, leased, or sold during that time. After that period expired, however, the trust restriction would automatically be lifted and the Indian allottee would become the owner of the land in fee.

The debate on the Allotment legislation echoed the sentiment of the social reformers. One sponsor argued that

the Indian must either perish, depend upon the Government for support, or abandon his thriftless habits, learn to eat bread in the sweat of his face, and finally rise to the level of the civilization that surrounds him and take upon himself the duties and responsibilities of American citizenship. Starvation, pauperism, or independent, self-supporting citizenship--between these the Indian must take his choice, or, rather, we as his guardians, must choose for him ....

What shall be his future status? Shall he remain a pauper savage, blocking the pathway of civilization, an increasing burden upon the people? Or shall he be converted into a civilized tax-payer, contributing toward the support of the Government and adding to the material prosperity of the country?

[T]he tribal relations must be broken up ... the practice of massing large numbers of Indians on reservations must be stopped ... lands must be allotted in severalty ... [and] where there is more land in any reservation than the Indians on that reservation can profitably use, such surplus lands must be so disposed of that the white man may get possession of them and come into contact with the Indians.

While the General Allotment Act established a mandate for allotting Indian lands, separate legislation was required to actually allot the lands of a particular Indian nation. Usually, government officials would negotiate with a tribe's leaders to secure their cooperation in the allotment process. In addition to the grant of individual lands and monetary compensation to the tribe, other incentives were given to induce Indians to relinquish their tribal lands. Often, however, these incentives failed to have their desired effect. But the government proceeded to allot the reservations anyway, even when doing so violated prior treaties with the affected Indian nation.

One of these incentives was the granting of American citizenship. Senator Dawes was a firm supporter of the efforts to "civilize" the Indians. Indians who agreed to have their lands allotted would be granted citizenship. "We do this," he said, "in order to encourage any Indian who has started upon the life of a civilized man ... to be one of the body politic in which he lives; giving the encouragement that if he so maintains himself, he shall be a citizen of the United States."

Motivated by this sentiment, Dawes provided in the General Allotment Act two ways in which Indians could become citizens. First, American and state citizenship would be granted to an Indian upon the issuance of an allotment. In addition, the Act provided

That every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States who has voluntarily taken up within said limits his residence, separate and apart from any tribe of Indians therein, and has adopted the habits of civilized life is hereby declared to be a citizen of the United States, and is entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of such citizens, whether said Indian has been or not, by birth or otherwise, a member of any tribe of Indians within the territorial limits of the United States, without in any manner impairing or otherwise affecting the rights of any such Indian to tribal or other property.

To carry out this mandate, the treaties and agreements implementing the Allotment Act for specific Indian nations contained provisions allowing American citizenship to be granted upon issuance of an allotment. In addition, subsequent legislation established a procedure by which members of the Five Civilized Tribes could become American citizens upon application to a federal court.

The Secretary of the Interior also developed a procedure for determining when an Indian was "competent" and thus eligible for obtaining citizenship. From this process there developed a ceremony and oath that Indians being granted American citizenship were required to recite:

Representative of [Government] speaking:

For men: (Read white name), what is your Indian name? (Gives Indian name)

(Indian name), I hand you a bow and arrow. Take this bow and arrow and shoot the arrow. (Shoots arrow).

(Indian name), you have shot your last arrow. That means that you are no longer to live the life of an Indian. You are from this day forward to live the life of a white man. But you may keep that arrow, it will be to you a symbol of your noble race and of the pride you feel that you come from the first of all Americans.

(White name), take in your hand this plow. (Takes plow).

This act means that you have chosen to live the life of the white man--and the white man lives by work. From the earth we all must get our living, and the earth will not yield unless man pours upon it the sweat of his brow. Only by work do we gain a right to the land and enjoyment of life.

(White name), I give you a purse. This purse will always say to you that the money you gain from your labor must be wisely kept. The wise man saves his money, so that when the sun does not smile and the grass does not grow, he will not starve.

I give into your hands the flag of your country. This is the only flag you have ever had or ever will have. It is the flag of freedom, the flag of free men, the flag of a hundred million free men and women of whom you are now one. That flag has a request for you, (White name); that you take it into your hands and repeat these words:

"For as much as the President has said that I am worthy to be a citizen of the United States, I now promise to this flag that I will give my hands, my head, and my heart to the doing of all that will make me a true American citizen."

And now beneath this flag I place upon your breast the emblem of citizenship. Wear this badge of honor always; and may the eagle that is on it never see you do aught of which the flag will not be proud.

Obtaining American citizenship through the allotment process changed slightly as the result of amendments to the General Allotment Act inserted in 1906. The Burke Act amendments postponed the granting of citizenship until after a patent in fee simple had been issued to the affected Indian. This was intended to delay the granting of citizenship until after the end of the twenty-five-year trust period on allotments. However, the Burke Act also allowed for that time period to be shortened upon the Secretary's determination that an Indian was "competent" to manage his own affairs.

Depending upon one's perspective, the Allotment Policy was either an abysmal failure or a wild success. On the one hand, the social reformers greatly underestimated the magnitude of their "Indian problem." Rather than improving the lives of individual Indians, the Allotment Act actually made their condition worse. Vested with their land allotment, Indians did not quickly assimilate to the agrarian lifestyle as had been hoped. Oftentimes this was due to the poor quality of the land that they had been allotted (the better quality "surplus" lands were reserved for sale to Whites) or the inability to manage the business of agriculture. As a result, the human condition of Indian people was dramatically diminished by allotment.

On the other hand, the Allotment Policy was a "success" because it divested Indians of their land. Indians easily lost their allotments at the end of the trust period. Absent good credit, many were forced at some point to pledge their allotment to obtain loans. When the mortgagor invariably defaulted, the bank took title to the allotment, which was relieved of the trust period after twenty-five years, and sold at auction to Whites. While it is not known whether this was part of the original allotment plan, through the foreclosure process and the outright sale of the surplus lands, two-thirds of all Indian lands held in 1887--87 million acres--were lost to Whites by 1934.

While Congress eventually was pressured to accept that the Allotment Policy was a failure for the Indians, the change in policy that it brought about clearly had long-term effects. Certainly the transferring of large quantities of Indian land to non-Indians made possible further American colonial expansion in the West. In addition, the way in which the land was taken greatly promoted the assimilating purpose that was intended. For example, the irregular distribution of land to non-Indians made many reservations look like "checkerboards," a condition that has continued to the present day. Thus, Gates' original plan of promoting the "wise intermingling of the right kind of civilized men with the Indians" actually was achieved. Both this "intermingling" and the allotment of land itself contributed to the breakup of tribal life and the rise of individualism amongst Indians living in such territories. In fact, some Indians have so assimilated the colonizing nation's property values that they have thwarted modern efforts by Congress to remedy the checkerboarding problem that would directly benefit their tribal nation.

Thus, while it was not readily obvious to federal policymakers at the time, the Allotment Policy successfully implemented the Indian "civilization" agenda. These "successes" occurred primarily through the government and missionary sponsored boarding schools that were established. With such captive young audiences (literally), these schools were able to effectuate both the conversion of Indians to Christianity and indoctrination in the American way of life. Indeed, federal Indian agents were told that "[t]he great purpose which the Government has in view in providing an ample system of common school education for all Indian youth of school age, is the preparation of them for American citizenship." To maximize success in this endeavor, these agents were instructed to tell teachers in the Indian schools to "carefully avoid any unnecessary reference to the fact that [their students were] Indians."

The adoption of the Allotment Policy also had the permanent effect of changing the debate surrounding the issue of granting American citizenship to all Indians. Once the Policy was adopted, it was no longer the case that federal policymakers believed that a distinct Indigenous existence should be preserved. Instead, it was generally accepted that the Indian population should be absorbed into American society. Senator Orville Platt accurately described the future of federal Indian policy in 1892 when he said that "[o]ur whole policy in dealing with the Indian has changed. It is now the purpose of the government to wipe out the line of political distinction between the Indian citizens and other citizens of the Republic."

C. The Citizenship Act of 1924

By 1924, there were a number of ways by which an Indian could become a citizen: through a treaty provision; through the granting of an allotment; through issuance of a patent in fee simple by the Secretary; by "adopting the habits of civilized life"; by minor status; by birth; through service in the American military upon judicial application, by marriage, and pursuant to specific acts of Congress. As a result, at the time the Citizenship Act was passed, most Indians already were citizens and only 125,000 Indians, or about one-third of the total American Indian population at the time, were not.

This perceived deficiency was remedied when the Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924. This legislation was notably different from previous efforts to confer American citizenship upon Indians in that consent or any other precondition was not required. Nonetheless, the Congress clearly sought to preserve the status of Indians as Indians by explicitly providing that tribal rights would not be affected by the grant of American citizenship. The Act stated:

That all noncitizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States: Provided, That the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property.

There was little debate and discussion of this legislation in Congress. The House Report accompanying the legislation stated only that it was "very difficult for an Indian to obtain citizenship without either being allotted and getting a patent in fee simple, or leaving the reservation and taking up his residence apart from any tribe of Indians." The proposed legislation was designed to "bridge the present gap" and not make citizenship contingent upon "the question of land tenure or the place of his residence." The Senate echoed this theme, arguing that "as a large number of other Indians had become citizens under various acts of Congress, it was only just and fair that all Indians be declared citizens."

Interestingly, it appears that the 1924 Act was not passed out of a direct desire to further Indian assimilation, but rather to prevent the Interior Department from having greater authority over Indian affairs. Early drafts of the citizenship legislation would have allowed the Secretary to grant certificates of citizenship to Indians, which would have given the government great discretionary power over whether an Indian could become a citizen. The Progressives on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (including 1924 Progressive presidential candidate Robert M. LaFollette) opposed this approach. They redrafted the bill to eliminate the government's discretion by providing a blanket grant of citizenship "to strike a blow at big bureaucracy in the way earlier Progressive legislation had struck at big business." Because of this motivation, the Citizenship Act of 1924 has been characterized as not "a piece of social legislation" but rather as "regulatory in nature."

While the final move in the effort to grant Indian citizenship may have been driven by broader political concerns, it remains true that the social reformers and the government's Allotment Policy of the late nineteenth century had already cast the die on the question of whether Indians should become citizens. When the Act was being considered, there was some debate within American society over the issue. Some reformers thought that citizenship would not serve either American or Indian interests. Others strongly supported and reaffirmed their longstanding commitment to granting citizenship to the Indians. But on the whole, the reformers agreed to enactment of citizenship legislation so long as there was specific protection for Indian tribal and property rights upon their release from federal wardship. The officials who ultimately pushed through the citizenship legislation, however, made no issue of whether granting citizenship was the right thing to do or not. Granting citizenship was so obviously just that there was no meaningful opposition to the legislation and it received very little public attention. The Indian Rights Association, not surprisingly, hailed it as "the advent of the Indian as our equals before the law."

As a general matter, Indians had a mixed reaction to the conferral of American citizenship. Since the late nineteenth century, there had always been Indians who thought that it was extremely important to become American citizens. Most of these proponents were either mixed-bloods or those who had been raised in the boarding schools and thus conditioned to accept relinquishment of their tribal status. One such organization promoting the citizenship effort was the Society of American Indians. Most of the SAI members had been educated at the Carlisle School, and included such prominent figures as Henry Roe Cloud, J.N.B. Hewitt, Francis LaFlesche, Carlos Montezuma, and Arthur Parker. They were "well-educated and had achieved success in their chosen professions" and thus "espoused a national philosophy and platform that was modeled after their own personal history."

Most Indians, however, had long resisted the efforts to confer citizenship upon them and continued to think of themselves only as members of their Indigenous nation. In 1877, when the Congress was considering the Ingalls bill to allow the naturalization of all Indians, considerable opposition to the legislation was stated by the Choctaw and the Chickasaw. These nations were concerned about their land and treaty rights because the legislation explicitly protected an individual's claim to such rights despite having lost, as a matter of tribal law, their tribal citizenship by virtue of choosing to become an American.

This sentiment was echoed by the Seminole and Creek Nations who were concerned that their treaties would be abrogated by the passage of the bill. Moreover, aside from the potential impact on their treaty rights, they were still opposed to the bill due to the internal conflict it would create within their nations: "the presence among Indians of those of their own blood who have thrown off their allegiance and claimed the protection of an outside power, could not be other than a fruitful cause of discord ...." Foremost, these nations were concerned about the bill's influence on their future existence: "if all the Creeks and Seminoles were to become citizens, the Creek Nation and the Seminole Nation would cease to exist and their national domain would revert to the United States." While this proposed legislation suggested that the United States was becoming more open to the idea of treating Indians as citizens, it was clear that at least some Indian nations were not.

Similar sentiments were expressed as Congress continued with its efforts to grant citizenship to Indians into the twentieth century. Thus, even though Congress in 1919 had authorized Indian veterans to become citizens upon judicial application "few Indians refused to turn their backs on their heritage or go through the demeaning process of being declared 'competent'."

Perhaps the most aggressive resistance taken against the Citizenship Act was put up by the Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. Shortly after the Act was passed, the Grand Council of the Confederacy "sent letters to the president and Congress of the United States respectfully declining United States citizenship, rejecting dual citizenship, and stating that the act was written and passed without their knowledge or consent."

Even though many Haudenosaunee willingly participated in World War II, others held the view that their citizenship in the Confederacy precluded the authority of the United States to draft them. Many were arrested and prosecuted as draft evaders. The Six Nations Grand Council rejected the authority of the United States to draft its members stating that first, Haudenosaunee were separate nations; second, their treaties with the United States forbade either nation from drafting the members ofthe other; and third, Haudenosaunee people could not be drafted under tribal law."

In 1941, the Confederacy challenged the legality of granting citizenship to its members when it brought Ex Parte Green, an action challenging the Selective Service Act of 1940 authorizing the conscription of citizen Indians into the American armed forces. The court reached its conclusion "reluctantly" and "taxed [its] ingenuity in vain to find any interpretation which would result in a decision in [Green's] favor," but it upheld the applicability of the Selective Service Act on the grounds that acts of Congress supersede treaty provisions.

Despite the Haudenosaunee failure to strike down the Citizenship Act in these cases, their action highlights the fact that many Indigenous people actively resisted the extension of American citizenship and its assimilating effect. On this whole saga, Tuscarora Chief Clinton Rickard remarked that

The Citizenship Act did pass in 1924 despite our strong opposition. By its provisions all Indians were automatically made United States citizens whether they wanted to be or not. This was a violation of our sovereignty. Our citizenship was in our own nations. We had a great attachment to our style of government. We wished to remain treaty Indians and reserve our ancient rights. There was no great rush among my people to go out and vote in the white man's elections. Anyone who did so denied the privilege of becoming a chief or a clan mother in our nation.

 

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