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Presentation Immigration and Relocation in U.S. History

19th Century Perceptions

Indian delegations at Washington--presentation to the president A. Gardner, 1867

Native Americans were not recognized as U.S. citizens throughout the nineteenth century. A clause in the Fourteenth Amendment "excluding Indians not taxed" prevented Native American men from receiving the right to vote when African American men gained suffrage in 1868. Instead, tribes remained independent nations that were expected to sign agreements to establish Native American reservations in U.S. territories.

Ulysses S. Grant acknowledged such disparities in treatment in his first inaugural address in 1869 when he said, "The proper treatment of the original occupants of this land--the Indians [is] one deserving of careful study. I will favor any course toward them which tends to their civilization and ultimate citizenship."

The rights of status of Native Americans and the disposition of Native American lands were hotly debated in U.S. newspapers and magazines in the nineteenth century. However, Native voices were rarely included, and depictions of Native Americans, even by those who advocated for Native American rights, were often rife with racist language and imagery.

"Move on!" Has the Native American no rights that the naturalized American is bound to respect?