Today in History

Today in History: June 2

Indian Citizenship Act

Descendants of the original inhabitants of Dakota Territory
Descendants of the Original Inhabitants of Dakota Territory (detail),
Job V. Harrison, photographer,
circa 1900.
The Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920

Just why the Indians shouldn't vote is something I can't understand.

"The Life of Henry Mitchell,"
Old Town, Maine,
Robert Grady, interviewer,
circa 1938-1939.
American Life Histories, 1936-1940

On June 2, 1924, Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act, which granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S. The right to vote, however, was governed by state law; until 1957, some states barred Native Americans from voting. In a WPA interview from the 1930s, Henry Mitchell describes the attitude toward Native Americans in Maine, one of the last states to comply with the Indian Citizenship Act:

One of the Indians went over to Old Town once to see some official in the city hall about voting. I don't know just what position that official had over there, but he said to the Indian, 'We don't want you people over here. You have your own elections over on the island, and if you want to vote, go over there.'

"The Life of Henry Mitchell,"
Old Town, Maine,
Robert Grady, interviewer,
circa 1938-1939.
American Life Histories, 1936-1940

Native Americans During Mathematics Class
Native Americans During Mathematics Class, (detail)
Indian School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania,
Frances Benjamin Johnston, photographer, 1903.
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

Previously, the Dawes Severalty Act (1887) had shaped U.S. policy towards Native Americans. In accordance with its terms, and hoping to turn Indians into farmers, the federal government redistributed tribal lands to heads of families in 160-acre allotments. Unclaimed or "surplus" land was sold, and the proceeds used to establish Indian schools where Native-American children learned reading, writing, and the domestic and social systems of white America. By 1932, the sale of both unclaimed land and allotted acreage resulted in the loss of two-thirds of the 138 million acres that Native Americans had held prior to the Dawes Act.

In addition to the extension of voting rights to Native Americans, the Secretary of the Interior commission created the Meriam Commission to assess the impact of the Dawes Act. Completed in 1928, the Meriam Report described how government policy oppressed Native Americans and destroyed their culture and society.

The poverty and exploitation resulting from the paternalistic Dawes Act spurred passage of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. This legislation promoted Native-American autonomy by prohibiting allotment of tribal lands, returning some surplus land, and urging tribes to engage in active self-government. Rather than imposing the legislation on Native Americans, individual tribes were allowed to accept or reject the Indian Reorganization Act. From 1934 to 1953, the U.S. government invested in the development of infrastructure, health care, and education, and the quality of life on Indian lands improved. With the aid of federal courts and the government, over two million acres of land were returned to various tribes.

American Indians of the Pacific Northwest

Salish man
Salish Man Named Paul Challae and Small Child,
Montana,
date unknown.

Salish couple
Salish Man and Woman Sitting on Rocks,
Montana [?],
date unknown.

Salish Woman and Children
Salish Woman and Children,
St. Ignatius Mission, Montana.
1924.

American Indians of the Pacific Northwest integrates over 2,300 photographs and 7,700 pages of text relating to Native Americans of two cultural areas of the Pacific Northwest. Many aspects of life and work — including housing, clothing, crafts, transportation, education, and employment, are illustrated in this collection drawn from the extensive holdings of the University of Washington Libraries, the Cheney Cowles Museum/Eastern Washington State Historical Society, and the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.

Grover Cleveland Marries Frances Folsom

The President's Wedding
The President's Wedding (detail),
T. de Thulstrup, artist,
1886.
Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present

President Grover Cleveland wed Frances Folsom in a White House ceremony on June 2, 1886. Daughter of Cleveland's late law partner, the bride was twenty-seven years younger than her husband.

The self-educated Cleveland came from a poor family. After reading law and clerking at a Buffalo, New York law firm, he was admitted to the bar in 1859. A Democrat, he entered Buffalo's political arena in 1862 and was elected mayor in 1881 and governor of New York State in 1882. As governor, his opposition to patronage raised his national standing, even as it rankled New York City's Democratic machine.

Cleveland brought his belief in clean government to the White House in 1885. The first Democrat to hold the office after the Civil War, Cleveland's term was marked by significant efforts toward civil service reform. While he won the popular vote in his bid for a second term as president, he failed to secure the majority of votes in the Electoral College and Benjamin Harrison won the 1888 election. Cleveland returned to New York and the practice of law.

Grover Cleveland, full length portrait
Grover Cleveland,
1888.
Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present

Cleveland did not abandon politics, however, and he was renominated for another presidential bid in 1892, this time winning over Harrison. Cleveland became the only U.S. chief executive to serve two nonconsecutive terms. His second administration was plagued by economic instability and social unrest. Within months after Cleveland regained the presidency, the nation suffered the worst economic downturn in its history. Believing the Sherman Silver Purchasing Act largely responsible for economic woes, Cleveland called Congress into session and lobbied successfully to repeal the act.

Unfortunately for Cleveland, economic depression persisted. The violent Pullman Strike in Chicago, the rise of a third political party (The People's Party or Populist Party) and the Free Silver Movement all signaled growing dissatisfaction with the status quo. In 1896, Cleveland lost the Democratic nomination to William Jennings Bryan. Cleveland retired to Princeton, New Jersey. He was elected a trustee of Princeton University in 1901; he lectured there and had an active role in the university community until his death in 1908.

Search the following American Memory Collections for more information about the life and times of man who served as both the twenty-second and twenty-fourth president: