My Heart Breaks a Little


Osage tribal members and President Coolidge in 1924

My heart breaks a little when I discover people won’t vote.

The disappointment comes from learning at an early age that my Native ancestors could not vote in a general election.

Although my grandmother voted in tribal elections, she said she never cast a state or U.S. ballot.

In some communities, Indians were turned away at the polling booths.

The story told in my family was that Native Americans who fought in world wars returned home only to find they weren’t considered citizens.

A landmark piece of legislation—approved by Congress and signed by President Calvin Coolidge—accorded Native Americans citizenship in 1924.

The irony is that the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution—which the current “president” seeks to revoke—guarantees citizenship to “any persons born in the U.S. and subject to its jurisdiction.”

Seems that the rights of American Indians were simply ignored, and even until 1957, some states barred tribal folks from voting.

So my heart breaks just a little more when I hear about citizens being denied their voting rights despite a 94-year-old law designed to allow all of us to vote.


Day Four: Native American Heritage Month

4 November 2018












About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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