Press Release: Commemoration of 100 Years of Native American Citizenship

Johnston, Iowa (May 28, 2024)  A commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Indian Citizenship Act will take place at the West Capitol Terrace Stage on the State Capitol Complex in Des Moines, IA on June 2, 2024 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. The Friends of the Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs will host the event which will include native speakers and performers. This will be the start of a yearlong commemoration and an opportunity to share Native American history and culture.


A representative will be available starting at 12:30 to assist the press.

1:00 pm – Opening Comments

1:05 pm – Invocation

1:10 pm – Land Acknowledgement**

1:20 pm- Acknowledgement of Elders and Veterans**

1:25 pm – Introduction of performance

1:27 pm – Performance- Morningstar Dance Troupe with Drum Circle (Tyler Lasley)**

1:45 pm – Introduction of Speakers – Tim Perkins

1:47 pm – Karen Mackey

1:57 pm – Comments from Sponsors

2:20 pm – Break*

2:30 pm – Calvin Harlan

2:40 pm – Morningstar Dance Troupe with Drum Circle (Tyler Lasley) Friendship Dance

2:55 pm – Closing

**Opportunity for media film shots

On June 2, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed into law the Indian Citizenship Act, which marked the end of a long debate and struggle, at a federal level, over full birthright citizenship for American Indians.  The act read that That all non-citizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States 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.

Road to Citizenship

American Indians had occupied a unique place since the drafting of the Constitution in citizenship matters. Originally, the Constitution’s Article I said that “Indians not taxed” couldn’t be counted in the voting population of states. American Indians were also part of the Dred Scott decision in 1857 but in a much different way. Chief Justice Roger Taney argued that American Indians, unlike enslaved blacks, could become citizens, under congressional and legal supervision.

The 14th amendment’s ratification in July 1868 overturned Dred Scott and made all persons born or naturalized in the United States citizens, with equal protection and due process under the law. But for American Indians, interpretations of the amendment immediately excluded most of them from citizenship.  There was enough confusion after the 14th amendment was ratified about American Indian citizenship that in 1870, the Senate Judiciary committee was asked to clarify the issue.  The committee said it was clear that “the 14th amendment to the Constitution has no effect whatever upon the status of the Indian tribes within the limits of the United States,” but that “straggling Indians” were subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. At the time, U.S. Census figures showed that just 8 percent of American Indians were classified as “taxed” and eligible to become citizens. The estimated American Indian population in the 1870 census was larger than the population of five states and 10 territories—with 92 percent of those American Indians ineligible to be citizens. Natives were not even considered “people” under federal law.

Standing Bear v. Crook was a landmark Native American civil rights case decided in 1879. Government prosecutors stated that under federal law, Native Americans were not considered “persons” and therefore were not eligible to seek a writ of habeas corpus. The decision in the case was the first time a Native American was recognized – not as a ward of the government – but as a person under the law who has inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Dawes Act in 1887 gave American citizenship to all Native Americans who accepted individual land grants under the provisions of statutes and treaties, and it marked another period where the government aggressively sought to allow other parties to acquire American Indian lands. The issue of American Indian birthright citizenship wouldn’t be settled until 1924 when the Indian Citizenship Act conferred citizenship on all American Indians.

We would like to thank our sponsors: The Krause Group, Veridian Credit Union, and Des Moines Performing Arts.


More information can be found at

For inquiries, please email us at [email protected].


Timothy Perkins


Friends of the Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs