Why don't Native Americans have representation in Congress?

  • While Native Americans are counted for purposes of population in the House of Representatives, the case could be made that as sovereign nations, various Indian tribes should have rights to specific representation in the Senate.

    Why was this never the case?

    Do you want all arguments from the founding until now (living document interpretation of the Constitution), or are you only interested in the Constitutional reason why?

    I was unaware that Native Americans couldn't run for senate

    @SamIam Senators represent regions, not ethnic groups. (One could argue that Native American Land falls 'within' said regions, I suppose...)

    @DA. That was kinda my point

    @SamIam fair point. Related: officially, Native Americans weren't even fully guaranteed the right to vote for said representatives until 1965: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_civil_rights#Voting

    I will guess that it's because the treaties signed by them didn't provide for representation... but that's a guess, not a fact.

    I do think there cold be some clarification here. As user1873 points out, they have representation at the state level. Is that what you are asking? Or are you asking more about regional representation (ala, representatives specifically for the Native American tribal lands)?

    @AffableGeek, DVK and DA. Are under the impression that you are asking about Senators in the state Legislature (state Senate), and not about senators at the national level in Congress in Washington D.C. As a point of clarification, many state legislative branches have a [state] House of Representatives/[state] Senate, is there a simple way to indicate that you are speaking about a state/federal legislative branch ("Congress" is what tipped me off, is there another?)

    sovereign nations? Are you sure this makes an argument FOR their participation? What other sovereign nations are represented?

  • user1873

    user1873 Correct answer

    8 years ago

    Your premise is flawed, Native Americans do have representation in the Senate.

    Any Native American that is a citizen of the United States has two senators that represent them in the Senate, based upon the state that they reside in.

    Then there is the rather racist definition of "representation" which requires that someone of the same skin color, religious persuasion, etc. is their representative. Even under this definition, there have been several senators with significantly acknoledged Native American ancestry. Charles Curtis of Kansas 1906-1926, who later served as the Senate Republican Majority Leader (1925-1929). Robert Latham Owen, Jr. of Oklahoma 1907-1925.

    Finally, perhaps you were just referring to Native Americans on Indian reservations requesting statehood.

    The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state. U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 3, clause 1

    There is some historical precedence for that. The Oklahoma Territory is composed of both Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory when both were requesting statehood individually.

    Representatives of the Five Civilized Tribes met in 1902 to work on securing statehood for Indian Territory and held a convention in Eufaula. [...] The convention drafted a constitution, drew up a plan of organization for the government, put together a map showing the counties to be established, and elected delegates to go to the United States Congress to petition for statehood. The convention's proposals were presented in a referendum in Indian Territory, in which they were overwhelmingly endorsed.

    The delegation received a cool reception in Washington. Eastern politicians, fearing the admission of two more Western states, put pressure on the U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt. He ruled that the Indian and Oklahoma Territories would be granted statehood only as a combined state.

    So, in Oklahoma since 1907 Native Americans of the Five Civilized Tribes have had two senators representing them in the U.S. Senate.

    What is the relation between the reservation and the state it resides in? I think reservations are technically managed by United States Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, rather than the state, so 'representation' at the state senator level may not be quite as direct.

    @DA. - that's the whole point. If you choose to be on a reservation, you're basically a subject to the treaties made with US Fed government, which didn't allow representation (for a couple of reasons some of which this answer addressed). If you choose to live outside reservation, you are a regular state citizen and get state representation.

    @DVK, and DA., that isn't how I read the question. This question is specifically about Congress's Senate (" representation in the Senate"). We aren't talking about state Legislature (I think).

    @dvk so, in that sense, native americans that want to live on their own land do *not* have representation?

    @DA., Is this any different than a person who moves to New York no longer being represented in their former state?

    @DA. - It's not "their own land". It's their tribe's land. More specifically, their tribe's jurisdiction. Their tribal leaders chose to make that deal with DC back when. They can opt to live under tribal jurisdiction or not (same as anyone else who doesn't like the deal their parents made with their society, assuming they live in a free country like USA and not a communist paradise where moving elsewhere is a hard to impossible task).

    Even though I disagree with the practice, a lot of states do have gerrymandered Congressional districts with the explicit intent of electing a Black or Latino representative. Does such a district exist for Native Americans?

    @dan04, yes apparently. They have drawn district lines so that Hopi and Navajo indians have different representation.

    @user1873 I suppose it's different in that they'd still have representation in the state they moved to.

    @dvk, sure, that makes sense. I was wondering what (if any) responsibility a State Senator has towards representing tribal land interests (either officially or unofficially). Maybe a more succinct question: do residents of tribal lands have the right to vote for the senators of the state their lands are within?

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM