The Sioux County Pioneer newspaper of North Dakota reports on this day in 1927 that President Calvin Coolidge will be “adopted” into a Sioux tribe at Fort Yates on the south-central border of North Dakota.
In anticipation of the president’s upcoming visit to the Black Hills region of North Dakota, the Sioux County Pioneer reported that a Sioux elder named Chauncey Yellow Robe, a descendant of Sitting Bull and an Indian school administrator, suggested that Coolidge be inducted into the tribe. The article stated that Yellow Robe graciously offered the president a “most sincere and hearty welcome” and hoped that Coolidge and his wife would enjoy “rest, peace, quiet and friendship among us.”
Coolidge’s public policy toward Indians included the Indian Citizen Act of 1924, which granted automatic U.S. citizenship to all American tribes. On personal moral grounds, Coolidge sincerely regretted the state of poverty to which many Indian tribes had sunk after decades of legal persecution and forced assimilation. Throughout his two terms in office, Coolidge presented at least a public image as a strong proponent of tribal rights. However, U.S. government policies of forced assimilation remained in full swing during his administration. At this time, all Indian children were placed in federally funded boarding schools in an effort to familiarize them with white culture and train them in marketable skills. In the meantime, however, they were separated from their families and stripped of their native language and culture.
At the Sioux ceremony in 1927, photographers captured Coolidge, in suit and tie, as he was given a grand ceremonial feathered headdress by Sioux Chief Henry Standing Bear and officially declared an honorary tribal member.