Published on September 20, 2014 by Amy
During World War I, about 9,000 American Indians served in the armed services. They fought and died in defense of a nation that still denied most of them the right to participate in the political process. Congress, as a result, enacted legislation on November 6, 1919, granting citizenship to Indian veterans of World War I who were not yet citizens.
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“BE IT ENACTED . . . that every American Indian who served in the Military or Naval Establishments of the United States during the war against the Imperial German Government, and who has received or who shall hereafter receive an honorable discharge, if not now a citizen and if he so desires, shall, on proof of such discharge and after proper identification before a court of competent jurisdiction, and without other examination except as prescribed by said court, be granted full citizenship with all the privileges pertaining thereto, without in any manner impairing or otherwise affecting the property rights, individuals or tribal, of any such Indian or his interest in tribal or other Indian property.”
The 1919 American Indian Citizenship Act did not grant automatic citizenship to American Indian veterans who received an honorable discharge. The Act merely authorized those American Indian veterans who wanted to become American citizens to apply for and be granted citizenship. Few Indians actually followed through on the process, but it was another step towards citizenship.