Did you know that Kamala Harris is not the first person of color to serve as U.S. vice president? Vigil writes for the History News Network about Charles Curtis, a member of the Indigenous Kaw Nation who became Herbert Hoover’s vice president in 1928.
Vigil, associate professor of American studies, writes that Curtis’s political career “spanned six terms as a congressman (1892–1907) and 20 years as a senator (1907–13, 1915–29), where he served as the Republican Party whip and majority leader” before becoming VP.
“Curtis’s most lasting legacy, certainly for scholars of American Indian history, is the Curtis Act,” she continues. “The 1898 Curtis Act amended the Dawes Act of 1887, which gave the federal government the power to break up tribally held lands.” Charles Curtis later wrote in his autobiography that he had written the act in the hope that it would help Native nations transition to private land ownership. “Instead, it was far more radical,” writes Vigil, “as it abolished tribal courts and instituted civil governments in an attempt to merge Indian territory with the new state of Oklahoma.”