Although it marks the end of the sad conquest and assimilation into European-type society of the native Americans, a fact which detracts from its greatness, the document possesses many amazing attributes.
First, the document is signed by over 900 Chiefs, far more leaders than any other document in world history. These leaders represented 189 tribes who were at one time considered as independent Nations.
Equally important, these 189 tribes included every tribe in the United States with no exceptions. It is the only document ever signed by all native American tribes in the United States. The Declaration is the first voluntary acknowledgement of the sovereignty of the United States over all American Indian tribes.
The fact that no tribe refused to sign and all tribes volunteered to sign may seem strange today, but it was a special time of reconciliation even between Indian tribes.
The birth of the concept of the Declaration of Allegiance dates back to September 1909, the date of the last great Indian council, participated in by eminent Indian Chiefs from nearly every tribe in the United States. The dominant theme of the council was "peace" between fellow Indians, and all men. The success of the Council led Congress and President Taft to pass a bill on December 8, 1911 for the erection of a National Indian Memorial (in the harbor area of New York). The dedication of the memorial was held on Washington's birthday in 1913, attended by 32 Chiefs representing all Indian Nations. It was here that the first page of the document was signed by the Chiefs and the President. The consensus by the Chiefs was, that for the first time they felt that they were part of this country. It was then suggested that all the tribes be given the opportunity to sign the same pledge of loyalty.
Mr. Rodman Wanamaker (of the Wanamaker Department store fame) initiated an expedition of citizenship to all the tribes and was given the document by the government to proceed and obtain signatures from all who wished to sign. The expedition took seven months, covering 27,000 miles by train, boat, stagecoach, automobile, horseback and donkey. Every tribe, without exception, signed.
This document marked the beginning of a ten year movement to grant full citizenship rights to the American Indian, finally given by the Act of Congress on June 15, 1924.