First people of the land in the United States

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This Native American family takes a break at their campsite during a Omaha Tribe powow in Nebraska. This photograph is part of a thesis project by Jannet Walsh at Ohio University: “A photojournalist documentation of Native American in Nebraska, 1990-94,” was presented to school children at Department of Defense School AFCENT International School, in Brunssum, the Netherlands and Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base, Germany, 1994 to 1997. Ohio University School of Visual Communication – Scripps College of Communication. Learn more about Ohio University. Photo by Jannet Walsh,

American Indians and Civil Rights

September 30, 2015

By Jannet Walsh

Brief overview, history and landmark decisions

The indigenous peoples in the United States, the first inhabitants of the land, are believed to have migrated from Asia to North American some 15,000 years ago, passing over massive glaciers serving as a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska.

The term Native American is losing favor with some Native groups, but American Indian or Indigenous American are preferred by some, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. The official reference by the U.S. Census is American Indian and Alaska Native for indigenous peoples in the United States.

2010 United States Census - American Indian and Alaska Native

The Census in 2010 recorded 5.2 million people in the United States identified as American Indian and Alaska Native, either alone or in combination with one or more other races. Additionally, out of the total, 2.9 million people identified as American Indian and Alaska Native alone. The Census for the entire nation on April 1, 2010, was 308.7 million people. Learn more the 2010 Census.

Civil Rights History - A brief overview

1884 - John Elk case - A person cannot be a United States citizen and a member of an Indian tribe.

1887 - Dawes Act granted citizenship only to Indians who gave up their tribal affiliations.

1897 - Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca Tribe is considered a person or man in a landmark decision in the court case, Standing Bear v. Crook. Learn more about the Trial of Standing Bear.

1901 - Citizenship granted for American Indians living in Indian Territory .

1919 - Indians who served in World War I are granted citizenship.

1924 - Citizenship granted to all American Indians, but states imposed restrictions.

1941 to 1945, World War II -Navajo Code Talkers - Native Americans in the United States Marine Corps used native languages to send secret tactical messages, encrypted messages. When Native Americans went off to fight in Word War II, they did not have the right to vote until 1948.

1948 - Arizona and New Mexico are last two states to grant American Indians right to vote.

1965 - Voting Rights Act of 1965 and amendments

2015 - Justice Department makes proposal for overcoming voting barriers for Native Americans, with many needing to travel more than 100 miles to vote.

Native American Maps and Education

Aaron Carapella of Warner, Okla., has designed Native American maps detailing locations and original names of hundreds of American Indian nations before their first contact with Europeans. The Native American maps provide education and understanding of lost or forgotten Native homelands.

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