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Northampton Forbes Library, Talk

March 28 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

100 Years After the Indian Citizenship Act, How Has Native American Life Changed?

A panel discussion hosted by the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum

March 28, 2024, 6:30 PM to 8 PM

On June 2, 1924, Calvin Coolidge signed a law that read: “That all non citizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States.”

100 years after Coolidge’s enactment of what became known as the Indian Citizenship Act, how has the law influenced the quality of life of America’s indigenous peoples? Have the legal rights of citizenship proven to be beneficial? Or was the law part of an assimilationist policy that created new obstacles to cultural preservation?

To explore the legacy of the Indian Citizenship Act, the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum is convening a panel of scholars with deep knowledge of Native American history and culture. Panelists include:

Kathleen A. Brown-Pérez (Commonwealth Honors College at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Senior Lecturer II) focuses her research and publications on issues of federal Indian policy and law, including sovereignty, identity, and federal acknowledgement. As an attorney, she also consults with law firms that are suing the federal government on behalf of tribes. Some of her works include “By Whatever Means Necessary: The U.S. Government’s Ongoing Attempts to Remove Indigenous Peoples,” in New Diversities (2018) and “A Reflection of Our National Character’: Structurally and Culturally Violent Federal Policies and the Elusive Quest for Federal Acknowledgment,” in Landscapes of Violence (2012).

Margaret Bruchac (University of Pennsylvania Professor Emerita, Anthropology) specializes in museum anthropology, Indigenous histories, and cultural heritage. She serves as a consultant to Historic Northampton, Historic Deerfield, and other New England museums. Her published works include the book “Savage Kin: Indigenous Informants and American Anthropologists” (2018), and the articles “From Nonotuck to Northampton: Recovering Indigenous Histories” (2023) and “Lost and Found: NAGPRA, Scattered Relics and Restorative Methodologies” (2010), among others.

Rebecca Hamlin (University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Professor of Legal Studies and Political Science) focuses her research on law and immigration politics, and migrant categorization and the concept of a refugee. She is currently researching the intersection between immigration restrictionism and the expansion of Native American citizenship in 1924. She recently published the book “Crossing: How We Label and React to People on the Move.”

Kiara M. Vigil (Amherst College, Associate Professor of American Studies and Education Studies) focuses on Native American and Indigenous studies. She published “Indigenous Intellectuals: Sovereignty, Citizenship, and the American Imagination, 1880-1930” (Cambridge UP) in 2015. Since then, her work has appeared in several peer reviewed journals and books. Her research continues to engage with questions of sovereignty and representation with a focus on Native Americans as actors and activists, including her great grandfather, as well as the cultural imprint made by the rare Indigenous newspaper “Iapi Oaye” (1871-1939), which was printed in Dakota—the language of her ancestors. She is also the editor of the academic journal SAIL (Studies in American Indian Literatures) published by the University of Nebraska Press and a co-editor of The Lyda Conley Series on Trailblazing Indigenous Futures published by the University Press of Kansas.

The discussion will be moderated by Bill Scher, Vice President of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum Standing Committee. It will be held in person at the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library & Museum, and will also be accessible to interested participants by Zoom. Video of the event will be made available on social media.


“100 Years After the Indian Citizenship Act, How Has Native American Life Changed?” is part of the museum’s “Coolidge Centennial” series of events, assessing the legacy of Coolidge presidency.


March 28
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm EDT


Forbes Library
20 West Street
Northampton, MA 01060
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(413) 587-1016
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