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Practicing Citizenship: Can You Pass the Citizenship Test?

People born within the US receive citizenship automatically. People who are born in another country and move to the United States may decide that they want to become a citizen. At this time (2022), the process of naturalizing includes several steps. Individuals must meet specific requirements to be eligible for citizenship. They must be interviewed, demonstrate they know English, and they must take a test that covers civics and US history. After reading this e-exhibit, you should see how well you do!

There are a number of practice tests online. Here is the practice test offered by USCIS, which manages the naturalization process.

Researching with Primary Sources: Tribal Constitutions

Materials published by governments are important primary sources for historians because they are pieces of evidence that explain how the government works. In the United States, an important principle of government is transparency. This means that the governments you are a part of must make it easy to find out how the government is working. If you like learning about government and politics, you may spend time watching city council meetings, legislative debates, and political speeches. You can learn by reading policy guidance, investigative reports, and court transcripts. You might need to review maps, land surveys, and satellite images created by government agencies. All of these are examples of government documents (and there are many more!) that help governments be transparent. Historians examine these materials to understand the story behind a decision or to learn what is important to the people participating in that government.

Just like the United States and state governments, tribal governments created tribal constitutions that establish the basic rules for how the government will function. You can read tribal constitutions to get an idea of how they are written and what topics the constitutions cover. Take a look at five of the constitutions below and see if you can answer the questions on the chart below.

View a tribal jurisdiction map created by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

A table with questions about tribal constitutions
Download PDF

Read Critically: The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers were a collection of essays written to explain the proposed Constitution and to support its ratification. Some important historical figures, such as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, contributed to The Federalist Papers. The Federalist Papers discuss several of the ideals that were the basis for the kind of government the founders thought would be best. See if you can match the ideals below to its corresponding passage.

  • Checks and balances
  • Danger of Majority Rule
  • Federalism and enumerated powers
  • Judicial Review
  • Popular sovereignty and consent of the governed
  • Separation of Power

Federalist Paper 39: In this relation, then, the proposed government cannot be deemed a NATIONAL one; since its jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.

Political Ideal:

Federalist Paper 39: It is ESSENTIAL to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic. It is SUFFICIENT for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people; and that they hold their appointments by either of the tenures just specified; otherwise every government in the United States, as well as every other popular government that has been or can be well organized or well executed, would be degraded from the republican character.

Political Ideal:

Federalist Paper 10: Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.

Political Ideal:

Federalist Paper 78: It equally proves, that though individual oppression may now and then proceed from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from that quarter; I mean so long as the judiciary remains truly distinct from both the legislature and the Executive. For I agree, that "there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers.''

Political Ideal:

Federalist Paper 51: TO WHAT expedient, then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the Constitution? The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places.

Political Ideal:

Federalist Paper 78: If it is said that the legislative body is themselves the constitutional judges of their own powers and that the construction they put upon them is conclusive upon the other departments, it may be answered, that this cannot be the natural presumption, where it is not to be collected from any particular provisions in the Constitution. It is not otherwise to be supposed, that the Constitution could intend to enable the representatives of the people to substitute their will to that of their constituents. It is far more rational to suppose, that the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority.

Political Ideal:

Working with Data: The Federal Budget

A budget is a plan for how much money a person or group expects to receive and how it will be used. The United States government has a large budget. Most of the government’s money comes from a variety of taxes and fees. This revenue is explained on pages 38–39. Take a look at a page from the US government’s budget:

A table showing budget information

  1. Which section do you think shows what taxes the US government receives?
  2. How much did the US government receive in individual income tax in 2020? Make sure you write out the full number!
  3. Are corporate income taxes greater or less than the amount the US government receives from individual income tax?
  4. What is the name for the Social Security taxes on a paystub?
  5. What is a custom duty?
  6. How much does the Office of Management and Budget estimate the US government will receive in total revenue in 2029?

View the full budget for fiscal year 2022.

Practicing Citizenship: Communicating with Your Representatives

It is essential to let your elected leaders know who you are and how you would like them to act on issues that affect you. When you communicate with your elected leaders, it is important to be polite, even if you know they disagree with you on an issue. Your messages do not have to be long—a quick note explaining what you would like them to do and a couple of reasons why is usually all you need to communicate effectively with your elected official. It is ok to talk to your elected representatives even if you are too young to vote! Just make sure your parents or guardians know what you are doing. You can get their help finding out who your representatives are, writing your messages, and you can share all the responses you receive from your representatives.

A great idea is to send an email or letter introducing yourself every year. Try out this template or write your own message and send it to your elected leaders.

Dear [Title of office] [Last Name],

I am a constituent in the area you represent. I would like to introduce myself, and I hope you will do the same! I am [age]. I am in [grade]. I enjoy [describe an activity you enjoy].

I would like to thank you for serving your community by running for office. I know it takes a lot of hard work and effort to do that. I hope that you enjoy the work that you are doing.


[Your name]

How do I find who represents me?

The best place to start is the Oklahoma Legislature’s website. This will give you the names of your representatives at the federal and state level, their addresses, and a way to contact them. If you want to find your county or city representatives, you should start by locating their website. Then, you might find a map showing who represents your area. If you have trouble, there should be a phone number your parents can call to find out your county and city representatives’ contact information. Your elected representatives love hearing from their constituents!

Elmer Thomas in a high white collar, tie, and plaid coat and vest sitting in front of a mostly bare wall except for a small photo in the upper right corner.

Oklahoman Elmer Thomas served in Congress from 1923 to 1951. You can read messages his constituents sent him if you visit the Carl Albert Center at the University of Oklahoma (image courtesy Library of Congress).