Charles Curtis…

was born in Kansas on this date in 1860. Curtis was the 31st vice president of the United States, serving under President Herbert Hoover, 1929-1933. Curtis is the only person with non-European ancestry to ever serve as President or Vice President. His mother was part Kansa or Kaw, Osage and Potawatomi and part French. Curtis had a one-eighth Indian blood quantum.

Curtis served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1893 to 1907, and in the U.S. Senate from 1907 to 1913 and 1915 to 1929. He was Republican whip from 1915-1924 and majority leader from 1925-1929.

A description of the book Mixed-Bloods and Tribal Dissolution: Charles Curtis and the Quest for Indian Identity (1989) provides this background on Curtis.

A successful lawyer and Republican politician, Curtis had spent his early years on a reservation but grew up comfortably and fully integrated into the white world. By virtue of his celebrated status, he became the most important figure in the debate over federal Indian policy during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

As the Indian expert in Congress, Curtis had significant power in formulating and carrying out the assimilationist program that had been instituted, particularly by the Dawes Act, in the 1880s. The strategy was to encourage reservation Indians to reject communal life and reap the rewards of individual enterprise. Central to these developments were questions of ownership, land claims, allotments, tribal inheritance laws, and what constituted the public domain. The underlying issues, however, were Indian identification and assimilation. The government’s actions–affecting schools, the federal courts, Indian Office personnel, allotment and inheritance laws, mineral leases, and the absorption of the Indian Territory into the state of Oklahoma–all bore the mark of Curtis’s hand.