Native American Suffrage Symposium

Thursday, May 23, 2024

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM ET

Kennedy Caucus Room, Russell Senate Office Building
2 Constitution Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002

- Virtual Livestreamed Video

The Indian Citizenship Act, or Snyder Act, of 1924 marked a pivotal moment in American history, granting Native Americans citizenship and paving the way for their voting rights.

Join the U.S. Capitol Historical Society‘s Native American Suffrage Symposium where we will explore the impact of the Indian Citizenship Act, the evolution of Native American suffrage, and the ongoing efforts to protect and preserve Native American voting rights. The event features three panel discussions and a lunchtime conversation with leading scholars and practitioners, representing a balance of federal, academic, tribal, and advocacy perspectives, along with a diversity of regional viewpoints.

  • Admission is FREE and open to the public, registration is required.
  • Complimentary lunch and refreshments will be provided. 
  • This event will be livestreamed, register online to receive a link to the video recording.
  • Event Contact: Sam Holliday SHolliday@uschs.org

Presenting Partner

Platinum Partner

Bronze Partner

Image: "Girl on Horse" by Cedar Hunt of St. Ignatius, winner of Montana's First Congressional District Congressional Art Competition.

Symposium

On June 2, 1924, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, also known as the Snyder Act, which granted citizenship to all “Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States.” Determining who is a citizen, and thus who is and is not a part of and protected by the nation, has never been a simple, straightforward process. Within the context of Native American history, citizenship to the United States is even more complex, adding questions of tribal sovereignty, land use, and access to suffrage. This Symposium uses the Indian Citizenship Act as a starting point from which to highlight broader complicated discourses on historical and modern issues of citizenship, sovereignty, and suffrage.

Schedule

  • Coffee & Registration 9:00 am
  • Panel 1 9:30 am

    Native American Citizenship, Suffrage, and Sovereignty in History

  • Panel 2 11:00 am

    Suffrage, Activism, & the Law Today

  • Lunchtime Conversation 12:15 pm

    Native American Representation

  • Panel 3 1:30 pm

    Sovereignty in the 21st Century

  • Closing Remarks 2:30 pm

Panelists

We are still in the process of confirming additional speakers for the panel discussions listed below. Thank you for your patience as we finalize the lineup for this important event.

Panel 1:

Native American Citizenship, Suffrage, and Sovereignty in History

Historians will discuss the history of Native American citizenship, suffrage, and sovereignty in the United States as it relates to and beyond the Snyder Act.

Lila Teeters Knolle is a lecturer in Harvard University’s History & Literature program. She holds degrees from Vassar College, Teachers College – Columbia University, and the University of New Hampshire. In 2021, Lila was a J. Willard Hurst Fellow with the American Society for Legal History and the University of Wisconsin Law School as well as a recipient of the Charlotte W. Newcombe Fellowship with the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. Her current manuscript project is entitled Native Citizens: The Fight Over Native American Citizenship in the U.S., 1887-1924.

David J. Silverman is Professor of History at George Washington University, where he has taught since 2003. He is the author of several books on Native American, colonial American, and American racial history, including This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and Troubled History of Thanksgiving, which was published by Bloomsbury in 2019, and Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America, which appeared with the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press in 2016. His essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and National Geographic. He is currently writing a book about Indigenous people and race-making in United States history.

Panel 2:

Suffrage, Activism, & the Law Today

Panelists will discuss contemporary suffrage, activist, and legal efforts today made by Native American groups. This panel asks: what challenges to suffrage still exist and how are communities advocating for and creating change?

John Echohawk, Pawnee, is the Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, the oldest and largest nonprofit legal organization asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide. He was the first graduate of the University of New Mexico’s special program to train Indian lawyers, and was a founding member of the American Indian Law Students Association while in law school. John has been with NARF since its inception in 1970, having served continuously as Executive Director since 1977.

He has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal and has received numerous service awards and other recognition for his leadership in the Indian law field.

He serves on the Boards of the American Indian Resources Institute, the Association on American Indian Affairs, the Indigenous Language Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. B.A., University of New Mexico (1967); J.D., University of New Mexico (1970); Reginald Heber Smith Fellow (1970-72); Native American Rights Fund (August 1970 to present); admitted to practice law in Colorado.

Elizabeth Hidalgo Reese, Yunpoví (Tewa: Willow Flower) is a scholar of American Indian tribal law, federal Indian law, and constitutional law focusing on the intersection of identity, race, citizenship, and government structure. Her scholarship examines the way government structures, citizen identity, and the history that is taught in schools, can impact the rights and powers of oppressed racial minorities within American law.

Professor Reese is a nationally recognized expert on tribal law and federal Indian law and frequent media commentator on developments within the doctrine, particularly at the U.S. Supreme Court. Professor Reese is also a prominent Native policy expert and advocate. From 2023-2024, she served as the Senior Policy Advisor for Native Affairs at the White House, working within the Domestic Policy Council. In that role, she advised President Biden and his

Senior Staff on all matters involving Tribal Nations and coordinated or drove Native policy development across 20+ federal agencies.

Prior to becoming an academic, Professor Reese worked at the National Congress of American Indians where she supported tribal governments across the country as they implemented expanded criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians under the 2013 Violence Against Women Act. Reese began her legal career as a civil rights litigator at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund where she led a desegregation case in one of the largest school districts in Florida and worked on the challenge to Alabama’s Voter ID law.

Her Many Horses is on the board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. He is a member of the Center for Indian Country Development’s Leadership Council at the

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and he is the chair of the Native American Visiting Committee at Dartmouth College. Her Many Horses is the founder and chair of NAFOA’s Corporate Advisory Committee, where he served on the board for several years.

Education: B.A., Columbia University; M.B.A., Dartmouth

Lunchtime Conversation:

Representation in National and Local Narratives

A lunchtime conversation with individuals in community-facing roles about Native American representation in predominant national narratives.

Kevin Gover is the Under Secretary for Museums and Culture at the Smithsonian. The Office of the Under Secretary for Museums and Culture oversees the Institution’s history and art museums, its cultural centers, and the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Exhibits and the National Collections Program. He had served as director of the National Museum of the American Indian from 2007 until January 2021.

Gover, a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, served as the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and its George Gustav Heye Center in New York City for 14 years. He also oversaw the Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland. He led the museums to pursue equity and social justice for Native people through education, inspiration and empowerment, and museums have worked to expand what it means to be Native American.

Dawson Her Many Horses is a Managing Director and the Head of Native American Banking for Wells Fargo. Her Many Horses belongs to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota and is one of the first enrolled tribal members to be promoted to Managing Director at a major U.S. bank. In addition, Her Many Horses was selected in June to the 2023 Class of the Aspen Institute Finance Leaders Fellowship, a cohort of financial leaders worldwide committed to driving positive change and ensuring a more inclusive and sustainable financial ecosystem for future generations. Additional information can be found at Aspen Global Leadership Network.

Her Many Horses is on the board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. He is a member of the Center for Indian Country Development’s Leadership Council at the

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and he is the chair of the Native American Visiting Committee at Dartmouth College. Her Many Horses is the founder and chair of NAFOA’s Corporate Advisory Committee, where he served on the board for several years.

Education: B.A., Columbia University; M.B.A., Dartmouth

Panel 3:

Sovereignty in the 21st Century

Panelists will reflect on Native American sovereignty in the 21st Century. This panel will bring together leaders in their respective fields to discuss shifting relationships between Tribal Nations and the Federal Government.

Dawson Her Many Horses is a Managing Director and the Head of Native American Banking for Wells Fargo. Her Many Horses belongs to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota and is one of the first enrolled tribal members to be promoted to Managing Director at a major U.S. bank. In addition, Her Many Horses was selected in June to the 2023 Class of the Aspen Institute Finance Leaders Fellowship, a cohort of financial leaders worldwide committed to driving positive change and ensuring a more inclusive and sustainable financial ecosystem for future generations. Additional information can be found at Aspen Global Leadership Network.

Her Many Horses is on the board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. He is a member of the Center for Indian Country Development’s Leadership Council at the

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and he is the chair of the Native American Visiting Committee at Dartmouth College. Her Many Horses is the founder and chair of NAFOA’s Corporate Advisory Committee, where he served on the board for several years.

Education: B.A., Columbia University; M.B.A., Dartmouth

David J. Silverman is Professor of History at George Washington University, where he has taught since 2003. He is the author of several books on Native American, colonial American, and American racial history, including This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and Troubled History of Thanksgiving, which was published by Bloomsbury in 2019, and Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America, which appeared with the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press in 2016. His essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and National Geographic. He is currently writing a book about Indigenous people and race-making in United States history.

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About Us

Discover the heart of American history with the U.S. Capitol Historical Society! Founded in 1962, the Society has proudly worked to preserve and share the history of the Capitol, the Congress, and the people who work therein. As a nonpartisan, educational 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Society was chartered by Congress in 1978, in part, “to foster and increase an informed patriotism.” In service of this mission, the Society conducts historical tours of the Capitol Building, hosts both virtual and in-person public history programming, publishes scholarly research in various aspects of Capitol History, coordinates a digital civics education resource hub for teachers, manages a renowned civics education field trip program for Title I D.C. public school students, and commissions works of fine art for the Capitol collections.