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Today marks the 85th anniversary of the Indian Citizenship Act. The act gave citizenship to all Native Americans born within the United States. KSMU’s Matt Evans spoke to a member of the Chickasaw Nation about his ancestors who were denied citizenship for years.
Just 85 years ago, Native Americans were granted citizenship in the United States. Although the Native Americans had lived in this land longer than any other group, they were one of the last groups to be recognized as belonging to this country. Kenneth Estes is the executive director of the Southwest Missouri Indian Center and a member of the Chickasaw Nation.
"My mom, when she was born in 1912, wasn't even a citizen in her own country. We're not talking about hundreds of years back, we're talking about my mom," Estes said.
Estes said the reason that President Calvin Coolidge signed the act into law in 1924 was because so many Native Americans fought in World War I. Estes also said many Native Americans fought in the Civil War.
"My great grandfather and great great grandfather fought in the Civl War and they weren't even citizens. What were they fighting for?" said Estes.
The Southwest Missouri Indian Center is one of only three state recognized Indian Centers in Missouri. The mission of the center is to serve low-income Native Americans with emergency food, clothing, and other goods in 21 counties. For KSMU News, I’m Matt Evans.