When the Plymouth Pilgrims settle in Massachusetts, they receive help from Tsiquantum (Sqanto), a Patuxet Wampanoag who had been kidnapped and taken to London by an earlier expedition.
Royal Proclamation of 1763 forbids settling on "Indian Lands"
As part of the treaty which ends the French and Indian War, King George III declares the area between the Mississippi River and the Appalachian Mountains reserved for American Indians, and forbids individual Colonists from settling there or buying land from tribes.
Treaty with the Lenni Lenape proposes an American Indian State
The independent U.S. Government's first treaty with an American Indian tribe includes a clause suggesting that the Lenni Lenape might one day form their own U.S. State, with Senators and Representatives in Congress.
U.S. Constitution ratified; American Indian tribes considered "foreign nations"
Continuing the precedent set by the Royal Proclamation of 1763, Article I of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the sole power to sign treaties, buy land, and regulate trade with the American Indian tribes. American Indians are not considered U.S. Citizens, but citizens of "foreign nations" (their tribes).
Michigan grants citizenship to American Indians
Michigan helps to start a system of forced assimilation by granting citizenship to "every civilized male inhabitant of Indian descent, a native of the United States and not a member of any tribe." American Indians living with their tribes are still considered "uncivilized."
Worcester v. Georgia (U.S. Supreme Court)
The United States Supreme Court rules that American Indian tribes are sovereign nations subject to U.S. rule. This means the federal government has the sole right to negotiate with them, and they are subject to their own laws.
Voting rights denied in Rhode Island
Rhode Island specifically denies voting rights to members of the Narrangasset tribe.
Civil Rights Act of 1866 not applied to American Indians
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 gives citizenship rights to all persons born in the United States, with the exception of American Indians living on reservations or working outside U.S. jurisdiction.
Fourteenth Amendment and the right to vote
The 14th Amendment gives citizenship and the vote to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States," including former slaves, but does not apply to American Indians, however, because the courts still consider American Indians to be citizens of sovereign tribes dependent on the U.S. government. The 14th Amendment also states that "Indians not taxed" are not counted when determining how many Representatives each state is given.
Treaty system ended
Congress forbids the U.S. from signing any more official treaties with American Indian tribes, because the treaty process recognized them as sovereign nations. Instead, the President may sign "agreements," which violate tribal rights even more.
McKay v. Campbell (Oregon Supreme Court)
The Oregon Territory Supreme Court rules that the 14th Amendment does not apply to American Indians, who, despite being born on U.S. soil, were born under the foreign jurisdiction of their tribes.
Standing Bear v. Crook (Nebraska)
A District Court in Omaha, Nebraska becomes the first U.S. Court to rule that American Indians are people in the eyes of the law, and cannot be imprisoned or forcibly relocated without due process. However, American Indians can now be forbidden from leaving their reservations.
Elk v. Wilkins (U.S. Supreme Court)
John Elk, an American Indian, renounces his tribal citizenship and tries to register to vote as a U.S. citizen. When denied, he brings the case before the Supreme Court, which rules that American Indian reservations are subject to federal rule, but as separate "nations" within the U.S. whose citizens lack the same rights. A central part of the Court's logic was that American Indians were not "civilized" enough to vote. The classification of "civilized" or "uncivilized" is not only arbitrary and deeply offensive, but it also changes consistently to continue to deny rights to American Indians.
General Allotment Act (Dawes Act) dissolves Reservations
Tribal reservations are forcibly divided into small individual allotments, which are offered to any American Indian man, woman, or child willing to denounce their tribal life. The Dawes Act devastates the Reservation system, breaking up tribes and allowing White settlers to buy land left over after allotments have been made. Under the Act's terms, American Indians could become citizens twenty years after accepting their land allotments, at which point farming life would have made them "civilized."
Washington Territory Act of 1888 grants citizenship to American Indians who marry Whites
The Washington Territory grants citizenship and the right to vote to American Indian women who marry white men, but the Washington Territory's Supreme Court quickly repeals women's right to vote for the second time.
Indian Territory Naturalization Act
In a process similar to the Citizenship Naturalization Process today, residents of Oklahoma (then called Indian Territory) are allowed to apply in the federal courts to become a U.S. Citizen while maintaining dual citizenship in their tribe.
Massacre at Wounded Knee
After a Dakota Tribe member refuses to give up his rifle, U.S. Army forces open fire on their camp with rifles and artillery. Up to 300 American Indians - mostly women and children - are killed in the resulting massacre.
Insular cases deny Constitutional rights to Pacific Islanders
In a series of cases, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the indigenous peoples of U.S. island territories should not be given the full set of rights guaranteed by the Constitution because they are of different races than "Americans." To this day, these rulings have yet to be repealed, and as a result votes cast in Puerto Rico, Guam, and other U.S. territories are not counted in federal elections.
American Indians who fought in the First World War are permitted to apply for citizenship
The American Indian Citizenship Act declares that all American Indians who served as soldiers in World War 1 and were given an honorable discharge are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship in a federal court, using a procedure similar to the naturalization process for immigrants.
The Indian Citizenship Act (Snyder Act) grants citizenship to all American Indians born in the U.S.
The Snyder Act automatically grants U.S. Citizenship to all American Indians born in the United States. Not all American Indians welcome the decision, as some had wanted to remain tribal citizens only. In addition, many state laws still forbid or deter American Indians from exercising their right to vote.
Porter v. Hall (Arizona Supreme Court)
In a swift reversal of the Snyder Act, the Arizona Supreme Court rules that American Indians living on reservations are "wards of the United States government" and cannot vote.
The land sale portion of the Dawes Act is reversed
The new Reorganization Act allows "Surplus Land" in reservations to be returned to tribal control instead of being sold off to white settlers.
Arizona and New Mexico give American Indians the right to vote
In a pivotal move for American Indian voting rights, courts in Arizona and New Mexico affirm that American Indians in those states have the right to vote.
South Dakota's Culture Law is repealed
South Dakota finally repeals its 1903 "Culture Law" requiring American Indians prove that they have abandoned their culture, language, and clothing in order to vote.
House Concurrent Resolution 108 (HCR 108) is passed
HCR 108 declares Congress's intent to end federal supervision of the tribes and treat American Indians as U.S. Citizens. Like the earlier Dawes Act, however, this comes at a cost: American Indian tribes are no longer recognized, and they lose access to social welfare and hunting rights. As with the Snyder Act, not all American Indians welcome the decision, as some had wanted to remain tribal citizens only.
New Mexico is the last state to give all American Indians the right to vote
38 years after the Snyder Act passes, New Mexico becomes the final U.S. state to officially give all American Indians the right to vote. In many states, however, poll taxes and other forms of discrimination continue to limit American Indians' voting rights.
The Voting Rights Act is passed
The Voting Rights Act outlaws the use of poll taxes, literacy tests, and other discriminatory measures used to deny the vote to racially marginalized communities, including American Indians. Over the next few decades, the Act is invoked in several states which had infringed on the rights of American Indian voters.
Menominee Tribe v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court)
In a landmark decision reversing HCR 108's precedent, the Supreme Court rules that the Menominee in Wisconsin are still guaranteed to hunting and fishing rights on their former reservation, even though the federal and state governments no longer recognize them as a tribe. Hundreds of other tribes have similar experiences gaining federal recognition.
Voting Rights Act amended
The 1975 Amendments to the Voting Rights Act include a requirement that states provide ballot materials in secondary languages if a language minority makes up more than 5% of a state's population.
American Indians in South Dakota finally gain the right to vote
As late as 1975, authorities in South Dakota still prevent American Indians from voting in Todd, Shannon, and Washabaugh Counties, where residents are overwhelmingly American Indian.
Oliphant v. Squamish Indian Tribe (U.S. Supreme Court)
The Supreme Court rules that American Indian tribes, even when recognized by federal authorities, do not have the right to arrest and prosecute non-American Indians living on the reservation. Critics accused the Court of basing its decision on prejudice rather than legal precedent.
Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association (US Supreme Court)
The Supreme Court supports the construction of a highway through the Chimney Rock ceremony site in California, arguing that the destruction of sacred forests is not a violation of 1st Amendment religious freedom. Shortly after the decision, Congress intervenes with a law making the Chimney Rock site part of a nearby protected wilderness.
The Help America Vote Act is passed
HAVA sets aside federal funds to set up new polling stations and make existing ones more accessible. But in many states, like South Dakota, American Indians living on reservations may still have to drive for several hours to reach the nearest polling station.
The Voting Rights Act is overturned
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overturns important parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In response to this ruling, several states enact stricter voter ID laws, restricting access to the polls. Under most of these laws, ID cards issued by tribes and reservations are not considered valid.