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American Indians Timeline

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When America declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, American Indians were ready to step up and volunteer to serve in the military, as nurses, on the home front, and by contributing money. However, that enthusiasm and eagerness to join the cause was not always taken for granted. Education in the off-reservation boarding schools changed American Indian attitudes toward the federal government through assimilation, while legislative acts made citizenship for all a closer reality for those tribes without it. The events below shaped the environment that led to 12,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives joining the military and fighting loyally with distinction in the two years of war that America experienced.



  • May 1830
  • 05/28

    Indian Removal Act


    The Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson to forcibly remove American Indians from land in the Southeastern United States to Indian Territory.

  • January 1878
  • 01/01

    Hampton Institute accepts American Indian students.


    The school opened to educate former slaves, but also taught American Indians through 1923.

  • January 1879
  • 01/01

    Carlisle Indian Industrial School founded by General Richard Henry Pratt


    The school, located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, operated under the motto "Kill the Indian, Save the Man."

  • February 1880
  • 02/25

    Chemawa Indian School opened.


    The school is located in Salem, Oregon, and is still open but run by the Bureau of Indian Education.

  • January 1881
  • 01/01

    Albuquerque Indian School opened.


    The school was located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, mostly educating students of the Southwest.

  • January 1884
  • 01/01

    Chilocco Indian School opened.


    The school was located north of Ponca City, Oklahoma.

  • 01/01

    Genoa Indian School opened.


    The school was located in Genoa, Nebraska, and operated until 1934.

  • 01/01

    Haskell Institute opened.


    The school was located in Lawrence, Kansas, and named for U.S. Representative Dudley Haskell.

  • February 1887
  • 02/08

    Dawes Act


    The Dawes Act allowed for tribal land to be divided into allotments for individual Indians. They would receive citizenship in return for the acceptance of the allotment.

  • January 1891
  • 01/01

    Phoenix Indian School opened.


    The school was located in Phoenix, Arizona.

  • January 1892
  • 01/01

    Sherman Institute opened.


    Perris Indian School was opened in Perris, California, and in 1903, relocated to Riverside and renamed Sherman Institute.

  • June 1898
  • 06/28

    Curtis Act


    The Curtis Act called for the break-up of communally-held tribal lands of the Five "Civilized" Tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), and Seminole.

  • March 1901
  • 03/03

    Act of Congress passed


    This Act of Congress made every American Indian in Indian Territory (the so-called Five Civilized Tribes) citizens of the United States.

  • May 1906
  • 05/08

    Burke Act


    The Burke Act required an Indian to be deemed "competent and capable" before receiving a fee simple patent for their allotted land. It also provided citizenship once final validation of their trust patents was received.

  • January 1917
  • 01/19

    Zimmermann Telegram


    The telegram was a secret communication between Germany and Mexico that offered United States land in exchange for Mexico's alliance with Germany that led to US involvement in the war.

  • April 1917
  • 04/06

    America declares war on Germany.


    After years of nuetrality, Congress voted to enter the war.

  • May 1917
  • 05/18

    Selective Service Act


    The conscription laws were signed into law requiring all males 21 to 30 to register. This included all American Indians regardless of citizenship status.

  • September 1918
  • 09/01

    Carlisle Indian Industrial School is closed.


    The school became Base Hospital 31 for use in WWI.

  • 09/12

    Battle of St. Mihiel


    Major battle and first US-led offensive began with the possible first use of Comanche language.

  • October 1918
  • 10/26

    First use of Choctaw language


    During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, eight Choctaw men used their language to transmit coded messages during the war. This became known as code talking.

  • November 1918
  • 11/11

    Armistice signed.


    The armistice declared that all fighting on land, sea, and air cease on "the eleventh minute of the eleventh hours of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" that showed defeat for Germany and victory for the Allied nations.

  • November 1919
  • 11/06

    Citizenship for American Indian veterans


    All American Indians and Alaska Natives who were veterans of World War I could receive U.S. citizenship if they requested it.

  • June 1924
  • 06/06

    Indian Citizenship Act


    All American Indians and Alaska Natives are given citizenship in the United States regardless of previous provisions, treaties, etc.

  • January 1948
  • 01/01

    American Indians can vote in Arizona.


    The Arizona Supreme Court struck down a state constitutional provision, allowing American Indians the right to vote.

  • January 1962
  • 01/01

    American Indians can vote in New Mexico.


    It is now legal in all states for American Indians to vote.

  • October 2008
  • 10/15

    Code Talkers Recognition Act


    The Code Talkers Recognition Act officially recognized the men from 33 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes who served in World War I and World War II.

  • November 2013
  • 11/23

    Code Talkers Ceremony


    Ceremonies were held in Washington, D.C., that recognized the tribes, individuals, and families of Code Talkers, who were presented Congressional Medals for their service.


American Indians in WWI Centennial Commission

Contact: Erin Fehr ehfehr@ualr.edu

American Indians in World War I was created by the Sequoyah National Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Contributors: Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr. and Erin Fehr

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