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Native American History: 10 of the Most Important Dates

Posted By Paul G October 28th, 2020 Last Updated on: December 16th, 2021

Native American history is full of both beautiful triumphs and unexpected calamities. Wars, treaties, civil rights victories, and so much more. So, as you can imagine, indigenous peoples have a rich ancestral heritage and legacy. 

We’re going to go over some of the most important dates in Native American history. Each one of these carries with it a great deal of historical significance and is worth knowing about even if you aren't Native American or Alaska Native.

Let's dive into the list!

Ghost Dance

January 1, 1899

A Native American named Wovoka had a mystical experience that urged him to tell other natives to change for the better and take part in the Ghost Dance ritual to prepare for an age of peace and prosperity.

Allotment/Dawes Act

February 8, 1887

This law, passed by the U.S. government, said that every head of each Native American family was to get 160 acres of tribal land, while every individual would get 80 acres. This act was predominantly seen as an alternative to mass genocide by U.S. forces. 

Trail of Tears

April 5, 1838

President Andrew Jackson ordered the Cherokee off their Native American tribal land against a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The path they took became known as the Trail of Tears.

Pontiac’s Rebellion

May 1763

A loosely-knit confederation of Native American tribes in the Great Lakes, Illinois, and Ohio regions rose up against the British forces. They were successful and persuaded the British government to change national policies to be more favorable toward Native Americans.

Indian Citizenship Act

June 2, 1924

This law granted U.S. citizenship to Native Americans living in the United States. This act removed the ambiguity of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution regarding who was considered to be a citizen. It's without a doubt, one of the most important dates in Native American history. 

Indian Reorganization Act (Indian New Deal)

June 18, 1934

This act helped reverse much of the “cultural assimilation” imposed on Native Americans earlier in U.S. history. Its goal was also to strengthen, encourage, and continue Native American cultures in the U.S.

Battle of Little Bighorn

June 25, 1876

Native chiefs Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull led armies of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Native American tribes to a glorious victory over the vicious assault of U.S General George Custer and his army.

Native American Heritage Month

August 3, 1990 (Observed every November)

This is a relatively new holiday providing a national platform for Native Americans to share aspects of their culture with others. It also offers the opportunity to express their concerns and proposals. Now, every November, we get to collectively look back on Native American history and pay tribute to the accomplishments of indigenous peoples and American Indian nations that have stood the test of time.

Indigenous Peoples' Day

October 12, 1992 (Observed on the 2nd Monday of every October)

This is a relatively new holiday celebrating and honoring Native Americans, as well as their history and culture in the United States. It has increasingly been replacing Columbus Day in cities and states throughout the United States. It's an important acknowledgment of Native Americans still living in the United States and the land their ancestors once inhabited. 

Wounded Knee Massacre

December 29, 1890

US.. cavalry opened fire on Sioux Native Americans at Wounded Knee Creek, resulting in 300 killed, including women and children. This marked the end of armed Native American resistance to hostile Western forces. It marks one of the most significant dates in 19th century Native American history.


Which date in Native American history is most significant to you?

Let us know in the comments!


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Debbie

I would have said Wounded Knee, but the truth of the matter is that the Trail of Tears took more Native American lives. Also, they died a slow and painful death being slowly starved to death and forced to walk hundreds of miles during the winter months. The elements took their toll. The fallen were not even allowed a proper burial. Their bodies were left in unmarked graves along the trail they walked. I can’t imagine the grief of the survivors.

Laura Harrison

I just live a few miles from part of the trail of tears that runs through West Tennessee. I walk the area and when the breeze blows through the trees it brings a sound of the anguish that the people who walked there long ago felt. Ranis are mixed with tears and my footsteps on the ground are the heartbeats of souls driven by injustice.

Debbie

I live right around the corner from where the Trail of Tears began. When I hike the footpaths along the Tennessee River and see the fall leaves drop I think of them as well. Their spirit is very much alive here in Vonore. The Cherokee are a very gracious and forgiving people. i was happy to read today that recently the plains tribes have been given back the buffalo on their lands and are responsible for their care. I hope they will be able to hunt them again as their ancestors once did. I am sure the buffalo and the land is in good hands – they are excellent caretakers.

Running Doe

osiyo the trail of tears breaks my heart, I have watched over and over with tears in my eyes, the sad things our people had to go thru, , but we are still here and proud, wado Running Doe

Debbie

You belong to a very gracious and proud people. It is an honor to live where your ancestors once thrived. I am learning so much about the Cherokee people this month as it is Native American Month. Every day I research and learn more about what a remarkable people you are. I can only apologize for the atrocities visited on your ancestors by an unforgiving invader to your land.

HOPING SOMEONE JOINS ME IN THIS ENDEAVOR…

norb Schott

I am not native but thru pow wow s have come to love the Native Americans!
I often carry a flag at opening because I am a veteran. (of Vietnam war) I am so
honored by this. thanks and thank you all veterans.

Louis Pocha

It saddens my heart for our relations

Denyce

All these dates are significant. The fact that these dates and the history of Native Americans, the indigenous people of this country, is not taught in school is an indication of whites embarrassment for their sins. If I have to pick one, it would be the Citizenship Act of 1924. Which is ridiculous that indigenous people need an Act to become citizens of their own country. Further more, it wasn’t until 1964 that Utah, the last state to received the right to vote.

Debbie

Denyce,
I have to agree with you. The Citizenship Act of 1924 is ludicrous and just goes to show how arrogant the US government is. It just makes me sick. I also agree with you that the Native American people’s history should be taught in school. as a retired teacher, I think it should be taught HONESTLY with both sides owning their part in what happened. I have no doubt that the US will have the lion’s share of the responsibility for wrongdoings. Today there are some small efforts happening to reverse the past though. I just read that Tennessee is returning some of the ancestral grounds to the Cherokee and that the plains tribes in Montana are being given back the care of the land and buffalo on their land. I know these are miniscule efforts but at least they are a step in the right direction.

KarenKay Hutton

All of them have very deep meaning to me, but I know I wouldn’t be here if my Great GrandFather hadn’t been able to escape The Trail Of Tears, as a very young boy.
He found a family to hide him and adopt him, as long as he never spoke his true name or language again.
That’s just one of the ‘deadends’ to me finding my true name and real blood familes.

Diana Leanne Roberts-Elza

Just want to say how much I appreciate your site, it is literally the best out there on all topics Native. Very informative, no filler content to take up space. Every subject I’ve looked at contains indispensable information. Thank you!!

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