Petitioning the “Washington Chiefs”
“During the last two years strangers have looked over our land with spyglasses and made marks upon it, and we know but little of what this means.” — Hopi tribe
A Hopi (Moqui) petition signed by all the Chiefs and headmen of the tribe asking the Federal Government to give them title to their lands instead of individually allotting each tribal member., 03/27/1894 - 04/10/1894
Seeking an answer from the Federal Government, the Hopi tribe in the Arizona Territory petitioned Congress asking that the entire tribe be given land, rather than allotments to individuals as determined by the Dawes Act. The Hopi lived in the arid desert and farmed communally to survive. The allotment process would sell off “excess” lands, reducing the overall acreage the tribe needed to survive. Also, the Hopi were a matrilineal society, meaning they traced ancestry through the mother. They were fearful that the allotment process would eventually cancel out their way of life, and that women would not have control of their own homes. Each pictogram represents a family, and every family in the tribe signed the petition.
The government never formally responded to the petition, and the Hopi’s lands were never allotted. In an annual report from the Indian commissioner, it was recommended that the Hopis be allowed to continue their custom, “it is believed that the best interests of the tribe would be promoted by granting the petition.”
This petition is among the featured items at the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" exhibit now on display at the National Archives Museum.
Petition from Citizens of New York Asking that Slavery and the Slave-trade may be Expressly Prohibited by Act of Congress in all the Territories of the United States, 03/25/1851
Item from Records of the U.S. House of Representatives. (12/13/1825 - 1946)
This petition from a group of citizens of the state of New York asks that the institution of slavery as well as the slave-trade be prohibited by Congress in all US territories. The petition was submitted to Congress on March 25, 1851.
Featured in the new exhibit "Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" now at the National Archives Museum!
Discharge Petition #14 Filed by Oscar De Priest Regarding H. Res. 236, a Resolution to Prevent Discrimination, 01/24/1934 - 03/05/1934
Item from Records of the U.S. House of Representatives. (04/01/1789 -)
This resolution and discharge petition from Representative Oscar De Priest, a Republican from Illinois, attempted to end racial discrimination in the House of Representatives’ Restaurant. De Priest introduced H. Res. 236 to the House, which called for the creation of a special committee to investigate the House Restaurant’s refusal to serve two African Americans, one of whom was a member of his staff. When the resolution stalled in the Rules Committee, De Priest successfully used a discharge petition to move the bill out and onto the House floor.
Don’t forget to check out the National Archives’ future exhibition “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures,” opening to the public on March 21, 2014!
"TO THE WOMEN OF THE REPUBLIC:
We ask you to sign and circulate this petition for the entire abolition of Slavery. We have now one hundred thousand signatures, but we want a million before Congress adjourns. Remember the President’s Proclamation reaches only the Slaves of Rebels. The jails of LOYAL Kentucky are to-day “crammed” with Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama slaves, advertised to be sold for their jail fees “according to LAW,” precisely as before the war!!! While slavery exists anywhere there can be freedom nowhere.”
"To the Women of the Republic," Address from the Women’s Loyal National League supporting the abolition of slavery, 01/25/1864
From the Records of the U.S. Senate
Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued one year earlier, it applied only to slaves in rebel states. Slaves held in states still in the Union were unaffected. Slavery would not be completely abolished until ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6, 1865.
(Note: A full transcription of this document is available at Wikisource.)
On December 20, 1893, this petition for the establishment of a department of roads was rolled out onto the Senate floor and referred to the Committee on Interstate Commerce for consideration. The petition is over 6 feet high, one of the largest petitions in the holdings of the National Archives. The printed sheets of approximately 150,000 signatures are attached and wound around two gigantic wooden spools, reminiscent of bicycle wheels. The petition was organized and funded by Colonel Albert Pope, known as the father of the American bicycle.
The petition prompted the creation and funding of an office to conduct road research. The office would later become the Federal Highways Administration.
Petition for the Establishment of a Roads Department, Referred to the Committee on Interstate Commerce (2600933), 12/20/1893, Records of the U.S. Senate
"Whereas there appears to be much opposition to the operations of the act of enrollment and such opposition seems likely to result in a demonstration which may endanger the safety of the property now occupied by the Provost Marshall’s Office, and the buildings adjoining, which are private property, and are likely to be destroyed or injured to a great extent in case of a disturbance,—
We the undersigned Citizens of Tarrytown do hereby respectfully suggest and ask the removal of said office and for the adoption of such other precautionary measures by the Provost Marshall, as shall tend to secure the safety and tranquility of all concerned.”
Petition from Citizens of Tarrytown to Captain Moses G. Leonard, 07/16/1863
From the series Letters Received (1863-1865) from the Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau
July 13th, marked the 150th anniversary of the New York City Draft Riots, violent protests against the Civil War draft that lasted four days and resulted in over 1,000 casualties and millions of dollars of property destruction. Acts of vandalism and destruction were reported throughout the city as the riots spread. The mobs initially targeted government buildings and representatives before focusing their violence towards the African-American community.
Received by the U.S. House of Representatives on February 15, 1830 this petition from the Cherokee Nation, which was written in both Cherokee and English, asserted the tribe’s status as a sovereign nation in response to a bill which had been introduced to remove them from their land. Despite the petition, the legislation passed three months later, setting the stage for the eviction of the tribe in 1838 and the hardships they endured on the “Trail of Tears.”
Memorial of the Cherokees, HR 21A-H11, 2/15/1830, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives (ARC 306680)
Petition and map from John Muir and other founders of Sierra Club protesting a bill to reduce the size of Yosemite National Park. 01/02/1893
This document is the first official conservation pronouncement of the then-nascent Sierra Club, a petition to Congress protesting the Caminetti bill (H.R. 5764), proposed in 1892 to protect mining, livestock, and timber interests by reducing the size of the newly established Yosemite National Park. Ultimately, the Caminetti bill died in committee.
On December 31, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act admitting West Virginia into the Union. This petition in favor of admission was received by Congress in 1862.
Petition from citizens of Monongalia County, requesting admission of West Virginia into the Union, 1862, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives (ARC 306643)
Accept No Substitutes
"We have already seen the effects of the use of some of the substitutes for light wines and beer, and the result is very much in favor of the use of wines and beer."
In 1919, representatives for the Northern New York Utilities, Inc., wrote to New York Congressman David O’Connell objecting to the complete prohibition of alcoholic beverages. Supporters for prohibition did not always favor a complete ban on all liquors. Some supported prohibition of strong spirits, while allowing the consumption
of beer and wine.
Petition from Northern New York Utilities, Incorporated, to the Honorable David J. O’Connell, 10/08/1919
A Hopi (Moqui) petition signed by all the Chiefs and headmen of the tribe asking the Federal Government to give them title to their lands instead of individually allotting each tribal member. 03/27/1894 - 04/10/1894
The Hopi people of the Moqui Villages in the Arizona Territory sent this petition to “the Washington Chiefs in March, 1894. Signed by representatives of the tribe, with a symbol for every family, the document asked the federal government to give the Hopi title to their lands instead of individually allotting each tribal member a plot, as had been prescribed by the Dawes Act of 1887. The Moqui worried about losing their matriarchal way of life and cooperative management of resources that helped them adapt to their environment. Referring to surveyors, the petition said: “During the last two years, strangers have looked over our land with spy-glasses and made marks upon it.…None of us were asked that it should be measured into separate lots, and given to individuals for this would cause confusion.”
The document is written in the hand of Thomas Keam, who first came west with the military to move the Navajo people from Arizona to New Mexico, but later established a trading post and worked with Hopi and Navajo leaders to maintain peace between them, new settlers, and American authorities.
Only selected pages are shown here; the full petition is available via DocsTeach »
The Act creating Yellowstone National Park, 140 years ago today, from our colleagues at the Center for Legislative Archives:
On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed H.R. 16 into law, creating Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone was our young nation’s first national park. In 1888 there was a nationwide movement to further preserve Yellowstone. The Center for Legislative Archives has numerous petitions, like the one shown above, from citizens across the U.S. asking Congress to protect the park against trespassers and developers, as well as to preserve the wildlife and other natural wonders that exist within the park. In 1916, Congress created, with the approval of President Woodrow Wilson, the National Park Service within the Department of the Interior to oversee the preservation of national parks and monuments “for the enjoyment of future generations.”
An Act to Create Yellowstone National Park,3/1/1872, General Records of the U.S. Government (ARC 596351)
Petition from citizens praying for the protection of Yellowstone National Park, 3/1888, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
Presented to Congress on January 29, 1866, signers of this Petition for Universal Suffrage included pioneer suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and members of the former Women’s Loyal National League, Ernestine Rose, Lucy Stone, and Antoinette Brown Blackwell. This exceptional combination of signatures represents some of the period’s foremost advocates for suffrage and abolition.
On January 4, 1896, the Territory of Utah was admitted to the Union as the 45th state. Dated December 17, 1875, this is a petition signed by 22,626 women of Utah and presented to Congress, requesting statehood for the Territory of Utah.
More Petitions for Statehood in the Center for Legislative Archives…