Native American Voting Rights

Elizabeth Couchum

Research Project Plan

October 8, 2012

Native American voting rights in New Mexico, Arizona vs. Nevada…..what was going on in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah for Native Americans vs. the State of Nevada?

Thesis:

With the current political climate, the right to vote has been challenged in many swing states.  With many in arms about their right to vote in this very important election year, many are standing their ground to have their voices be heard, while some are working very hard to suppress the vote for those who may vote for the right candidate.  While many think that this is something very new, to have many votes challenged, sadly this has happened before.  Native Americans were not allowed to vote in this country based on their race.  It was not until the 19th Amendment that Native Americans were given the right to vote.  However, many states did not agree with this amendment and did not allow Native Americans to vote for many reasons.  There were three states in particular that fought the Native Americans who were determined to vote. Even though the Indian Citizenship Act was signed into law, when it came to voting, Native Americans did not get the right to vote in many states due to various reasons.  The last states to hold out were Arizona and New Mexico and Utah.  What was going on with these states that they took so long to grant the right to vote to Native Americans? When did Nevada’s Native Americans get the right to vote?  Compared to the State of Nevada, what was the political climate in Arizona and New Mexico and Utah?

Section 1: 

The 19th Amendment and the Native Americans got the right to vote.  How and when did the 19th Amendment came about?  What influences did the 19th Amendment have in the United Sates?

1.  The Nineteenth to the United States Constitution

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution, Wikipedia, (Modified on September 25, 2012) (accessed website September 29, 2012)

a. In August 1920 the 19th Amendment was ratified to allow women the right to vote.  According to the United States Constitution the 19th Amendment states that, The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

2.  “Native American Citizenship 1924, Indian Citizenship Act,”

http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0700/frameset_reset.html?http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0700/stories/0701_0146.html, Nebraskastudies.org 1900-1924, (Accessed website September 29, 2012)

            a. Native Americans who are indigenous to the United States did not get the right to vote until much later than women.  In 1924, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act.  This Act proclaims, “BE IT ENACTED by the Senate and house of Representatives of the United States of

America in Congress assembled, That all non-citizen 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. (Approved June 2, 1924)”

 3. Daniel McCool, Native Vote: American Indians, the Voting Rights to Act, and the Right to Vote, University of Utah 2007.

a. United States Constitution gives the states “the power to prescribe rules for the times, places, and manner of holding elections.”  However, Congress has the power to “alter regulations”.  This has led to conflict between the Federal Government and states.  pg. ix

b. There were major efforts to “define” the Native Americans and their place in the United States and whether or not they were a part of the country’s landscape.  Also, who had sovereignty?  Was it the Native Americans or “Indians”?  No. So since they were not considered citizens, they were not allowed to vote.  According to the U.S. attorney general, Caleb Cushing, in 1856:

“The simple truth is plain that the Indians are the subjects of the United States, and therefore are not, in mere right of home-birth, citizens of the United States…This distinction between citizens proper, that is, the constituent members of the political sovereignty, who are not therefore citizens, are recognized in the best authorities of public law.  (Official Opinions of the Attorneys General 1856, 749-50)” pg. 2

3.  The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in 1865.  Congress began putting together the 14th Amendment in 1866.

a.  “That all persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States.” (Civil Rights Act of 1866) pg. 3

i.  Note:  Wisconsin’s Senator James Doolittle, while debating on the senate floor, proposed to add “Indians not taxed”.  He made two arguments regarding the Native Americans.  One was that they were an “inferior race, and therefore were simply not good enough to hold the title of citizen.”  Doolittle’s second argument was that, “if granted citizenship, and implicitly the right to vote, they could vote in sufficient numbers to change the power structure and overwhelm their white neighbors.” pg. 3-4

ii.  Note:  Another senator made the argument that “Indians were not under the jurisdiction of the United States, and therefore were excluded from the provisions of the proposed amendments.”  pg. 4

4.  Solving the “Indian Problem” in the Nineteenth Century.

a.  Genocide.  As stated by Senator Doolittle, “put…out of the way.”  In other words, “all Indians should be exterminated.”  pg. 5

b. Another solution was to put the “Indians” away until they became “civilized” and were able to socialize with the white people.  So reservations were “set aside for Indians” until they were ready to be with white people. pg. 5

i. Treaties were worked out with Native American tribes to create reservations in 1868.

ii. The treaties came with provisions so that Native Americans can gain “citizenship by receiving a patent for land….. and be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of such citizens, and shall, at the same time retain all rights to benefits accruing to Indians under this treaty,” (Treaty of Fort Laramie 1868, Article 6). pg. 5

iii. Note:  Policymakers also wanted Native Americans to give up citizenship if they could not give up their tribal affiliations and culture.  “Citizenship and the right to vote would be contingent upon abandoning one culture and adopting another.”  pg. 5

iv. The Native Americans needed another statute to obtain citizenship.

5.  The Dawes Act

a. The Dawes Act is a statute that passed in 1887.  It divides up reservation land into individual holdings for members of the tribe.  Later, the remainder of the land was sold to white settlers.

“And every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States to whom allotments shall have been made provisions of this act, or under any law or treaty, and 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 hereby declared to be a citizen of the United States….(Dawes Act 1887, 390). pg. 6

6.  Office of Indian Affairs, citizenship to Indians, 1922

a. In a letter to Congress, Office of Indian Affairs identified eight legal procedures or conditions of what will enable the Native Americans to become citizens of the United States.  This will be known as the “Universal Indian Citizenship” or the Indian Citizenship Act, June 24, 1924. pg. 7

i. The letter states, “legitimate children born of an Indian woman and a white citizen father are born to citizenship,” (Office of Indian Affairs 1922). pg. 7

ii. “Indians would not have to give up being an Indian in exchange for citizenship.”

iii. “An Indian could be an enrolled member of a tribe.”

iv. “Live on a federally recognized reservation.”

v. “Practice his or her own culture, and still be a U.S. citizen.” pg. 7

7.  Judith Nies, Native American History, A Chronology of the Vast Achievements of a Culture and their Links to World Events, Ballantine Books, 1996 (e-book)

a. Native Americans were excluded from the economy and the political system because they were “segregated within reservations”.  Native Americans were not allowed to vote in the United States.  pg. 224

b. Religion and education among Native Americans were “outlawed”.  “Indian children were compelled to attend white run boarding school, cut their hair, wear citizen clothing, learn English, and adopt Christianity.”  pg. 224

Section 2:

Did the 19th Amendment Change anything in the United States?  If not, why?  What happened in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, compared to Nevada?

1.  Daniel McCool, Native Vote: American Indians, the Voting Rights to Act, and the Right to Vote, Daniel McCool, Cambridge University Press, University of Utah 2007.

a. The Department of the Interior had no idea that the western states would have “opposition” to Native Americans voting. pg. 8

b. A statement was made in 1928 in regards to the Indian voting because there were so many that interpreted the Indian Citizenship Act differently.  pg. 8

c. In 1936, attorney general of Colorado stated that the Native Americans had no right to vote due to the fact that they were “not citizens of the state.”

d. During World War II, Chief Choctaw wrote to the President in the United States.  “Our white friends here say we are not allowed to vote.  If we are not citizens, will it be right for the Choctaws go to war?”  Simply put, yes.  They were expected to fight for their country even if they are not allowed to vote.  pg. 10

e. Fifteenth Amendment 1870 states “limiting voting on account of race.”  States found other ways to “limit Indian voting.” pg. 10

f. There were six ways to limit voting:

i. Residency

ii. Self-Termination

iii. Taxation

iv. Guardianship

v. Literacy

vi. Protecting the Status Quo

2.  “Chavers:  No Voting Right in Indian Country,” http://www.nativetimes.com/life/commentary/3613-chavers-no-voting-rights-in-indian-country, Native American Times, Today’s Independent Indian News, Dr. Dean Chavers, May 17, 2010, (accessed September 30, 2012)

The author writes about conspiracies of why Native Americans did not have the right to vote.  There were many involved in keeping Native Americans from voting and there were also quite a few schemes involved.  The Native Americans who fought in World War II were faced with many problems.

a. Native American veterans still were not allowed to vote, buy a home, get a job, or buy a car.

b. Native Americans faced opponents of the Voting Rights 1965.  Example:  Former governor from South Dakota made comments, wanted to keep Native Americans on the reservation and also raped girls.  He never faced prosecution.

c. Other states to stop Native Americans from voting and were discriminatory against Native Americans were Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington.

3.  “Voting Rights History, Two Centuries of Struggle,” http://www.crmvet.org/info/votehist.htm, Civil Rights Movement Veterans, copyright 2004, 2010 (Labor Donated) (accessed September 30, 2012)

a. This website gives a timeline in regards to voting rights.  There were two dates that were important to Native Americans.

i. 1924 – All American aboriginal people (Native Americans) were given the right to vote by US Congress.

ii. 1948: State laws denying the vote to Native-Americans are overturned.  In one of the post-war period’s few successful legal challenges, the Federal courts overturn the last state laws (Maine, Arizona, New Mexico) that explicitly prevent Indians from voting. Violence, economic retaliation, and different kinds of legal tricks continue to be used to prevent Native-Americans from voting.

4.  “Indian Citizenship Act of 1924”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Citizenship_Act_of_1924 Wikipedia, modified October 3, 2012, (accessed September 30, 2012)

a. “According to a survey by the Department of Interior, seven states still refused to grant

Indians voting rights in 1938. Discrepancies between federal and state control provided loopholes in the Act’s enforcement. States justified discrimination based on state statutes and constitutions. Three main arguments for Indian voting exclusion were Indian exemption from real estate taxes, maintenance of tribal affiliation and the mistaken notion that Indians were under guardianship, or lived on lands controlled by federal trusteeship (Peterson 121). By 1947 all states with large Indian populations, except Arizona and New Mexico, had extended voting rights to Native Americans who qualified under the 1924 Act. Finally, in 1948 these states withdrew their prohibition on Indian voting because of a judicial decision (Bruyneel). ”

 

4.  Schusky, Ernest, Political Organization of Native North Americans, Washington D.C., University Press of America, 1980.

a. President John F. Kennedy had a task force for Indian Affairs, three objectives.

i. Maximum Indian economic self-sufficiency

ii. Full participation in American life

iii. Equal citizenship privileges and responsibilities.  pg. 286

5.  Nies, Judith,  Native American History, A Chronology of the Vast Achievements of a Culture and their Links to World Events, Ballantine Books, Random House Publishing Group, 1996 (e-book)

a. President Kennedy in 1961 recommends the head of Phillips Petroleum Company,

W. Keeler, who recommended the policy of termination.  Under Keeler, there were many others who were
appointed and the “responsiveness to the needs of energy companies continued to be the overriding policy of the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs).” pg. 276.

 

6.  “Arizona Native American Voting Rights History,” www.nativevote.org/photo/arizona-voting?Sarah Gonzales, September 30, 2010 (accessed September 29, 2012)

a. In 1928, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Native Americans did not have

the right to vote because they were under federal Guardianship.

 

b. World War II veteran, Frank Harrison, appealed that decision.  He believed

Native Americans had the right to vote and on July 15, 1948, court ruled in his favor.  Native Americans were able to vote in Arizona.

 

7.  “One Man, Many Votes, Native Americans struggle with the first freedom,” http://alibi.com/feature/23805/One-Man-ManyVote, Santa Ana Star Center, Jes Abeita, v. 17 no. 27, July 3 – 9, 2008

a. A century ago, Native Americans living in New Mexico were not allowed to vote.

A young marine, Miguel Trujillo, in 1948 brought about a case, Trujillo vs. Garley to decide whether or not Native Americans in New Mexico could vote.

b. “He was a person who always felt that Indian people should be recognized,”

said his daughter, Josephine Waconda.

 

c. August 3, 1948, a panel of three federal judges ruled that Native Americans

living in New Mexico are allowed to vote.  They also ruled that New Mexico violated Amendments 14 and 15.

 

8.  Chronological History of Nevada, www.shgresources.com/nv/timeline/, 2012 (accessed September 29, 2012)

a. By the looks of this website, Native Americans were allowed to vote in the State

of Nevada when the United States Congress passed the law that all “aboriginal” people, meaning Native Americans, are allowed to vote.

 

9.  Daniel McCool, Native Vote: American Indians, the Voting Rights to Act, and the Right to Vote, University of Utah 2007.

a. Case in Utah, Allen vs. Merrell, 1956.  The case was brought to the Utah Supreme

Court that had proved a method of stopping Native Americans in voting.  The Native Americans had to choose to either give up their heritage and being able to vote.  If Native Americans were unable to give up their affiliations with the tribe, they were unable to have their voices heard in the elections.  pg. 11

10.  Judith Nies, Native American History, A Chronology of the Vast Achievements of a Culture and their Links to World Events, Random House Publishing Group, Ballantine Books, 1996 (e-book)

a. After World War II, it was discovered that the land that was given to the Native

Americans had mineral resources though the Native Americans did not realize this. pg. 234

 

b. There was an effort to “dismantle” the reservations.  According to Nies, “Senator

Watkins from Utah argued in 1950 that while America was spending billions of dollars to fight communism, it was fostering socialist environments on Indian reservations.”  This point was brought back up during the Reagan administration.  pg. 234

 

11.  “Voting Rights Act of 1965,” http://www.crmvet.org/info/votehist.htm, Wikipedia, modified September 25, 2012, (accessed October 7, 1965)

a. The Act states, “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice,

or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

 

b. Outlawed discriminatory voting practices against African Americans.

Section 3:

Where are we now in the Right to Vote for Native Americans and as Native Americans as a whole in the United States?

1.    “Chavers:  No Voting Rights in Indian Country,” http://www.nativetimes.com/life/commentary/3613-chavers-no-voting-rights-in-indian-country, Native American Times, Today’s Independent Indian News, Dr. Dean Chavers, May 17, 2010, (accessed September 30, 2012)

a.  Native Americans are now hold office including state legislature in states such as Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Dakota.

b. Even though there have been huge steps in Native American voting, there are still problems with voter discrimination.

2.  “Voting Rights in Arizona 1982- 2006,” http://www.protectcivilrights.org/pdf/voting/ArizonaVRA.pdf, Protect Voting Rights: Renew the VRA.org, Dr. James Thomas Tucker and Dr. Rodolfo Espino, March 2006

a.  This report shows that the State of Arizona has a long way to go when it comes to the Voting Rights Act for Native American Indians  as well as the Latino community.  The State of Arizona still has signs of discriminatory effects toward those who have been fighting for their right to vote.

b.  This report is a 92 page report that takes you through the history of voting not only in Arizona, but throughout the country to the representation in Arizona and where the state stands today.

3.  Judith Nies, Native American History, A Chronology of the Vast Achievements of a Culture and their Links to World Events, Ballantine Books, The Random House Publishing Group,1996 (e-book)

 

a.  During the 1960s and 1970s all the way through the 1990s, a “new national Indian resistance” came about. pgs. 234 – 235

b. Native Americans created their own programs to deal with their own problems such as “alcoholism on the reservation and prison rehabilitation.” pg. 235

c. Councils were also created for young Native Americans. pg. 235

4. Judith Nies, Native American History, A Chronology of the Vast Achievements of a Culture and their Links to World Events, Ballantine Books, The Random Publishing Group, 1996 (e-book)

a.  From 1995- 2005, United Nations declared that this decade was “The Decade of Indigenous Peoples”.  The United Nations announced that this was declared because in part, “Allowing Native languages, cultures, and different traditions to perish through ‘nonassistance’ to endangered cultures must henceforth be considered a basic violation of human rights.” pg. 302

5.  “Tea party groups work to remove names from Ohio voter rolls,” http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/26/nation/la-na-ohio-voting-fight-20120927, Los Angeles Times, Michael Finnegan, September 26, 2012 (accessed October 8, 2012)

a. Activists say they’re challenging some names to ensure ‘election integrity.’ Others say it’s an effort to suppress the votes of likely Obama supporters.

b. A citizen in Ohio received notification that her right to vote “was challenged by a stranger.”

c. A Tea Party organization in Ohio is challenging 2,100 voters in Ohio to “remove their names from voter rosters.”

6.  “Ohio Challenges Legitimate Student Voters,”  http://www.projectvote.org/blog/2012/09/ohio-group-challenges-legitimate-student-voters/, Project Voting Matters, September 28, 2012, (accessed October 8, 2012)

a.   “Ohio Voter Integrity Project, the state arm of the Tea Party-affiliated True the Vote group, submitted the challenges, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Most of the challenged voters were Ohio State University students who she said should be removed from the rolls ‘because they did not provide address details such as apartment or dorm room numbers’.”

Conclusions

The Native Americans or “Indians” as they were called for many decades, faced countless obstacles regarding their life, heritage, religion, education, home, land, and the right to be seen as   human beings in their native land.  Native Americans were given the option to give up their cultural for the chance to vote.  Native Americans were told that they had to fight in World War II, but when they returned to the United States, they still faced obstacles, including the right to vote.  Thanks to the United States Congress, the 19th Amendment, the Indian Citizenship Act, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, made it possible for Native Americans to vote.  However, many states opposed Native Americans to vote and came up with many schemes to stop them.  With many cases and points that were brought by the Native Americans, the courts sided with them stating that the states’ voting rights for Native Americans were, in fact, illegal.

Now, with many Native Americans in the legislature and on many boards in their own towns and cities, there is still discrimination in many states.  Now with the political climate, there has not only been discrimination against Native Americans, but for others such as African Americans, Latinos, students, and the poor, by those who are challenging their vote by many schemes.  The Right to Vote in this country is a privilege that many have fought for in court cases, demonstrations, and war, and looks like that we, as a country, will continue to fight for, because nothing is more important that to have your voice heard.

Reflections

Initially, I thought that the search online for this topic would be daunting.  However, once I started to do the search and figuring out the proper “search words”, I was able to find articles regarding this topic.  The problem though was that many articles repeated each other.  There was no new real information.  The challenge was to do a different “word search” to find articles that presented the information in a different and engaging way.   Another problem that I found was trying to find narratives online of those whose votes were challenged.  I was able to find one article about a daughter who discussed her father and his fight not only for him to vote, but to allow all Native Americans to vote in Arizona.

 

I had much better luck with books that unfortunately are not online nor in e-books.  There have been several authors who did extensive research in this topic and many others that have plagued Native Americans throughout history.  One of the best online research I was able to do what a chronological history of the states that I was particularly interested in to see the timeline of what was going on in the history of the state and when Native Americans were allowed to vote.  The western states as well as the southern states in the United States had issues with voting rights.  In the south, it was all about the African Americans, but in the west, it was about Native Americans.  With the exception of Nevada who allowed Native Americans to vote as soon as the 1924 Voting Rights was passed, the surrounding states opposed the Native Americans with every turn.  Though I did not look at the State of California, I did find that the state had allowed Mexicans the right to vote before Native Americans.   In New Mexico, some women were given the right to vote before Native Americans as well.  In all of my research, I found that the main reason all states, with the exception of Nevada, many lawmakers were afraid of the same thing, by giving Native Americans the right to vote will cause a shift in the power of balance for these states.  Then there was the land, which has always been a major source of entitlement in the United States.  When it was found that the reservations had source of minerals, such as water and gas, the fight for land was on even though it was the Federal Government gave that land to the Native Americans.  Even today, water rights are still being fought for between the government and Native Americans.

 

While researching this topic and reading up on the voting rights in the United States, I have been watching the political race of 2012.  I could not help noticing when it came out that many voter rights in Florida, Ohio, and South Carolina were being challenged.  Many citizens, like the Native Americans, are angry.  The right to vote in this country is a guaranteed right.  The voting According to the 19th Amendment, The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”  With organizations such as the Tea Party and their affiliations, voter rights are being challenged today without any regard to the 19th Amendment or the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  All of this challenging of votes are done to get the person that these organizations want into the White House.  It seems that history is repeating itself.  I felt that I should add to this paper a little of where we are as a nation when it came to voting rights.  I wanted to show that when Native Americans were fighting for the right to vote, how politicians in many states made it almost impossible even though the Native Americans had the Federal Government to back them up.  Now in 2012, many organizations and a few politicians in certain swing states are making it hard for anyone who may vote for the “wrong” candidate to vote in the general election this November.    My reflections are that as we make progress for equality, down the road there will continue to be obstacles for everyone and anyone who may challenge the beliefs of a group who still believe that this country should be seen as a certain way.

Bibliography

 

Primary Sources

 “Arizona Native American Voting Rights History,” www.nativevote.org/photo/arizona-voting?Sarah Gonzales, September 30, 2010 (accessed September 29, 2012)

 “Chavers:  No Voting Right in Indian Country,” http://www.nativetimes.com/life/commentary/3613-chavers-no-voting-rights-in-indian-country, Native American Times, Today’s Independent Indian News, Dr. Dean Chavers, May 17, 2010, (accessed September 30, 2012)

 Chronological History of Nevada, www.shgresources.com/nv/timeline/, 2012 (accessed on September 29, 2012)

 “Indian Citizenship Act of 1924”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Citizenship_Act_of_1924 Wikipedia, modified October 3, 2012, (accessed September 30, 2012)

Nies, Judith, Native American History, A Chronology of the Vast Achievements of a Culture and their Links to World Events, Random House Publishing Group, Ballantine Books, 1996 (e-book on Nook)

 “Native American Citizenship 1924, Indian Citizenship Act,”

http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0700/frameset_reset.html?http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0700/stories/0701_0146.html, Nebraskastudies.org 1900-1924, (accessed website September 29, 2012)

 The Nineteenth to the United States Constitution http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution, Wikipedia, (Modified on September 25, 2012) (accessed website September 29, 2012)

“Ohio Challenges Legitimate Student Voters,”  http://www.projectvote.org/blog/2012/09/ohio-group-challenges-legitimate-student-voters/, Project Voting Matters, September 28, 2012, (accessed October 8, 2012)

“Tea party groups work to remove names from Ohio voter rolls,” http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/26/nation/la-na-ohio-voting-fight-20120927, Los Angeles Times, Michael Finnegan, September 26, 2012 (accessed October 8, 2012)

“Voting Rights Act of 1965,” http://www.crmvet.org/info/votehist.htm, Wikipedia, modified September 25, 2012, (accessed October 7, 1965)

“Voting Rights History, Two Centuries of Struggle,” http://www.crmvet.org/info/votehist.htm, Civil Rights Movement Veterans, copyright 2004, 2010 (Labor Donated) (accessed September 30, 2012)

“Voting Rights in Arizona 1982- 2006,” http://www.protectcivilrights.org/pdf/voting/ArizonaVRA.pdf, Protect Voting Rights: Renew the VRA.org, Dr. James Thomas Tucker and Dr. Rodolfo Espino, March 2006

Secondary Sources

 McCool, Daniel, Native Vote: American Indians, the Voting Rights to Act, and the Right to Vote, Cambridge University Press, University of Utah 2007.

Schusky, Ernest L, Political Organization of Native North Americans, Washington D.C. University Press of America, 1980.

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