Born near Topeka, Kansas, Charles Curtis–-who would become a U.S. representative, senator, and vice president–-was directly descended from White Plume, a Kaw chief, and Pawhuska, an Osage chief. During his boyhood, Curtis lived for three years with his maternal grandmother on the Kaw reservation near Council Grove, Kansas. As the government prepared to remove the Kaws to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), young Curtis's grandmother urged him to seek educational and career opportunities away from the tribe. Following high school in Topeka, he studied law there and at the age of 21 was admitted to the bar, soon rising to county attorney.
In 1892 Curtis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and was returned six times. He moved to the U.S. Senate in 1907 to fill an unexpired term. Closely identifying with his ancestry, Curtis authored legislation beneficial to Native Americans during his 20 years in the Senate. He also served as chairman of the Committee on Indian Depredations. Curtis was an indefatigable political organizer; he became party whip, and was majority leader between 1925 and 1929. One of his proudest achievements in the Senate was his effort to gain passage of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Elected 31st vice president with Republican Herbert Hoover in 1928, Curtis served one term before being defeated for reelection. He then returned to the practice of law in Washington, D.C., where he died in 1936.