Unit 6: 1900-1950

America saw a changing attitude toward Native Americans under Progressivism. Important actions took place during this time: Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, the Meriam Report of 1928, the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, and the creation in 1946 of the Indian Claims Commission. The federal government began to encourage public schools to enroll Native American children. Native Americans participated heavily in World War II and their experiences away from the reservation impacted their lives and way of life on reservations. 


1890-1910 The population of Native Americans fell to a low point of less than 250,000 in the United States

1902 The Reclamation Act encourages settlement of the West.

1906 The federal government seized 50,000 acres of wilderness land including the sacred Blue Lake of the Taos Pueblo.

1909 Teddy Roosevelt issues executive order transferring 2.5 million acres of Native American timberlands to national forests.

1910 The U.S. government forbids the Sun Dance among Plains Native Americans.

1911 The Society of American Indians was formed as an activist group.

1914-1918 Many Native Americans enlisted in the armed forces during World War I.

1917-1920 Many Native Americans lost their lands to some corrupt Anglos.

1921 The U.S. Department of the Interior is responsible for Indian education and social services.

1924 Congress awarded American citizenship to all Native Americans. Some had already obtained it.

1928 Charles Curtis, Kaw Native American and U.S. Senator, was elected Vice President under Hoover. The Merriam Report deplored Native American living conditions and declared the allotment system a failure.

1934 Wheeler-Howard (Indian Reorganization) Act provides for tribal ownership

of land and tribal self-government.

1941-1945 During World War II, approximately 25,000 Native Americans served in active duty and thousands more contributed to war efforts in war-related industries. The famous Navajo Code Talkers used their language as a code the enemy was unable to decipher. Other tribal languages were also utilized as codes.

1944 The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was organized. The Native American Church was incorporated. John Collier resigned as Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

1946 An Indian Claims Commission was created by Congress to settle tribal land claims against the United States.

1948 Assimilative Crimes Act held that offenses committed on reservations, not covered under a specific federal statute but punishable under state law, were to be tried in federal courts.

1949 The Hoover Commission on the Reorganization of Government recommended termination of the federal-Indian trust relationship. 

1. Discuss the significance of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, the Meriam Report of 1928 calling for a change in Indian education, the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, and the creation in 1946 of the Indian Claims Commission that allowed tribes to bring claims in regard to lands taken from them.

During the last 12 years of the 19th century, the primary vehicle for assimilating Native American people into American society was the education of young people. In the early 1900s, by and large, reliance on sectarian education for Native Americans came to an end, although mission schools continued to operate alongside of government schools on many reservations. The federal government began to encourage local school districts to enroll Native American students; nevertheless, local prejudice against Indians caused school districts to be largely unresponsive to this federal urging. Native Americans continued to tenaciously resist these efforts to be absorbed into American society. In the 1920s a vigorous reaction to federal

assimilation policies was growing among “Indian rights” societies, spearheaded by non-Indians. The Progressive movement stemmed from the rising interest in the relatively new fields of anthropology and conservationism. The movement became particularly active in response to proposed legislation affecting tribes in New Mexico and Arizona. Since tribal cultures in the Southwest were fairly intact in the early 1900s, they were the subject of considerable interest to artists and social scientists. Progressivist policies de-emphasized total assimilation. Instead, they stressed maintaining as many Native American cultural beliefs and lifestyles as possible. The change in attitude resulted in a brief attempt to place viable elements of tribal culture into the Native American government school curriculum – most notably in the arts. This Progressive era was short-lived, however, given the United States’ shift in attention to problems brewing in pre-World War II Europe and their potential economic and international implications for the United States.

2. Students will read and discuss Philip Johnston and the Navajo CodeTalkers. Students will examine participation in American wars, the overrepresentation of Native Americans in those wars, and the great patriotism that Native Americans have and the honoring of soldiers that Native Americans do. 

World War II was a time when many Native Americans first experienced life off the reservation for an extended period of time – on cultural, social and political aspects of tribal life. The soldiers brought new ideas home. it was not until Native American veterans returning from World War II brought litigation against states to gain voting rights that many states enfranchised their Native American citizens. In Arizona, for example, this did not happen until 1948; in New Mexico, this did not occur until 1962.
3. Students read to learn about early Native American activist, Carlos Montezuma. Students will discuss and organize data taken from the collection of activist, Carlos Montezuma.

MINNESOTA SOCIAL STUDIES CONTENT STANDARD(S): 16. Rivalries among European nations and their search for new opportunities fueled expanding global trade networks and, in North America, colonization and settlement and the exploitation of indigenous peoples and lands; colonial development evoked varied responses by indigenous nations, and produced regional societies and economies that included imported slave labor and distinct forms of local government. Analyze the impact of European colonization within North America on indigenous nations; analyze the impact of indigenous nations on colonization. Analyze how the expansion of United States territory and redefinition of borders affected the relationship of the United States with other nations, provided land for settlement, and resulted in political conflict. 

20. As the United States shifted from its agrarian roots into an industrial and global power, the rise of big business, urbanization and immigration led to institutionalized racism, ethnic and class conflict and new efforts at reform. (Development of an Industrial United States: 1870—1920) Explain changes in federal Indian policy, especially in the areas of removal, sovereignty, land ownership, education and assimilation; describe the impact of the federal policies and responses by indigenous nations. (Development of an Industrial United States: 1870—1920)