Society of American Indians

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SOCIETY OF AMERICAN INDIANS (SAI), the first modern lobby of American Indians, was founded on Columbus Day in 1911 by prominent professional American Indians under the direction of the sociologist Fayette Avery McKenzie, who frequently invited Indian guests to his classes at Ohio State University. The society offered individual, not tribal, membership to American Indians and associate memberships to non-Indians. American Indian members of the SAI were their generation's best and brightest, reflecting assimilation in both their personal and professional lives. Among the SAI's leaders were the Reverend Sherman Coolidge (Arapaho), an Episcopal priest; Arthur C. Parker (Seneca), an anthropologist; Charles Eastman (Santee Sioux) and Carlos Montezuma (Yavapai Apache), both physicians; Laura Kellogg (Oneida), an educator; Thomas Sloan (Omaha), an attorney; and Gertrude Bonnin (Yankton Sioux), an author.

One of the goals of the SAI was to educate the American public about the abilities and aspirations of American Indians. To achieve that goal it began publishing the Quarterly Journal of the American Indian (1913–1915), which was renamed American Indian Magazine (1916– 1920). Conflicting ideologies caused a schism among the society's Indian leaders by 1920. Issues contributing to the dissent were peyote usage on Indian reservations and federal administrative policies. With the exception of 1917, the SAI held a well-publicized convention every Indian summer from 1911 to 1923.


Hertzberg, Hazel W. The Search for an American Indian Identity: Modern Pan-Indian Movements. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1971. The most comprehensive study of the SAI.

Nabokov, Peter. "A Twentieth-Century Indian Voice." In Native American Testimony: A Chronicle of Indian-White Relations from Prophecy to the Present, 1492–2000. Edited by Peter Nabokov. New York: Penguin, 1999. Contains testimonials from the opening conference of the SAI in 1911.

Society of American Indians. The American Indian Magazine. Washington, D.C.: Society of American Indians (January 1916–August 1920).

———. The Papers of the Society of American Indians. Edited by John W. Larner Jr. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1987. Ten reels of microfilm accompanied by a printed guide.


See alsoIndian Policy, U.S., 1900–2000 .

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Society of American Indians