Native Knowledge 360° | Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Allotment Act?

The General Allotment Act of 1887 (The Dawes Act) provided that the president, at his discretion, could allot (divide up) reservation land to Indians, with the title to be held in trust by the United States for twenty-five years. This law mandated the conversion of Indian lands that tribes previously held in common into small parcels open to individual ownership. It granted that full citizenship for Indians would accompany the allotment, and conferred citizenship upon two classes of Indians born within the limits of the United States: Indians to whom land allotments were made and Indians who had voluntarily taken up residence separate from any Indian tribe and who adopted the “habits of civilized life.” Besides these two categories of Indians, Indian women who married citizens could become citizens beginning in 1880, and under the Act of November 1919, Congress made all Indian veterans who served in World War I U.S. citizens.

When were Native Americans granted U.S. citizenship?

Under the Indian Citizen Act (1924), all Indians born in the United States were declared citizens of the United States. By then, two-thirds of Indian people (women who married U.S. citizens, for example) had gained citizenship through laws enacted during the previous fifty years, such as the Allotment Act.

What is the Indian Reorganization Act?

In 1934, Congress passed the Wheeler-Howard Act (Indian Reorganization Act) to secure rights for Native Americans on reservations, ending the policy of allotment. Its main provisions were to restore to Native Americans management of their assets (mostly land), to prevent further depletion of reservations’ resources, to build a sound economic foundation for Indian people on reservations, and to return local self-government to Native American tribes.

What is the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978?

This act states the policy of the United States to “protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiians, including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonial and traditional rites.” The American Indian Religious Freedom Act is an important legal protection for Native rights to religious expression.

What is the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)?

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990), or NAGPRA, is a federal law that provides a process for museums and federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items, human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony to lineal descendants, culturally affiliated Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations. It empowers tribes to claim their human remains and cultural items from federal collections and non-Smithsonian museums.

How and why are Native arts protected?

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in the marketing of Indian arts and craft products within the United States. It makes it illegal to offer, display for sale, or sell any art or craft product “in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian tribe or Indian arts and craft organization, resident within the United States.”

What is the Canadian Indian Act of 1876?

This is the Canadian federal legislation, first passed in 1876, that sets out certain federal government obligations and regulates the management of Indian reserved lands. The act has been amended several times, most recently in 1985. The Canadian constitution recognizes three groups of aboriginal people—Indian, Métis, and Inuit.

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