Indian termination policy

Indian termination policy

Indian termination policy was a policy that the United States Congress implemented in 1950s and 1960s to assimilate the Native Americans (Indians) with mainstream American society, by terminating the government's trusteeship of Indian reservations and making Indians assume all the responsibilities of full citizenship. They were now taxed and had to follow all state laws. -- () 13:49, 6 October 2008 (UTC) [cite web
title=U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 108, 83rd Congress, 1953. (U.S. Statutes at Large, 67: B132.)
publisher=Digital History
accessdate =2007-05-01
] A total of 109 tribes and bands, totaling over 11,000 Indians, across the country were terminated during this time and lost their status as "recognized" and sovereign communities. [American Indian Politics and the American Political System By David E. Wilkins] -- () 14:23, 6 October 2008 (UTC) The termination of these tribes extinguished traditional rights to land, hunting, fishing as well as disbanding the tribe and incorporating them as American citizens. Termination would have lasting effects on Native Americans and the policies utilized in negotiation.

Formation and Legislation

A 1943 survey of Indian conditions, conducted by the United States Senate, revealed that the living conditions on the reservations were extremely poor. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the federal bureaucracy were found to be at fault for the troubling problems due to extreme mismanagement.cite web
title=Termination Policy 1953-1968
publisher=National Relief Charities (NRC)
accessdate =2007-05-01
] The Federal government believed that some tribes no longer needed its protection, and should be part of the mainstream American society. Goals of termination included repealing laws that discriminated against Indians, free the Indians from domination by the BIA, and ending federal supervision of the Indians.cite web
publisher=Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians
] cite web
title=Menominee Termination and Restoration
publisher=Milwaukee Public Museum
] Senator Arthur V. Watkins of Utah, the strongest proponent for termination, equated it with the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared the freedom of all slaves in the territory of the CSA.

In 1953, the House of Representatives and the Senate announced their support for the "Termination" policy, with House Concurrent Resolution 108: [cite web
title=U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 108, 83rd Congress, 1953. (U.S. Statutes at Large, 67: B132.)
publisher=OSU Library Electronic Publishing Center
date =1953-08-01
accessdate =2007-05-01

House Concurrent Resolution 108 was a formal statement by Congress announcing the official federal policy of termination. The resolution called for the immediate termination of the Flathead, Klamath, Menominee, Pottowatomie, and Turtle Mountain Chippewa, as well as all tribes in the states of California, New York, Florida, and Texas. Termination of a tribe meant the immediate withdrawal of all federal aid, services, and protection as well as the end of reservations. [Charles Wilkinson, Blood Struggle] Individual members of terminated tribes were to become full United States citizens and receive the benefits and responsibilities of any other United States citizens. The resolution also called for the Interior Department to quickly find more tribes who appeared ready for termination in the near future. [ [ House Concurrent Resolution 108] ]

Public Law 280, passed in 1953, gave the State governments the power to assume jurisdiction over Indian reservations. [cite web
title=Public Law 280
publisher=The Tribal Court Clearinghouse
date =1953-08-15
accessdate =2007-05-01
] It immediately granted the state criminal and civil jurisdiction over Indian populations in California, Nebraska, Minnesota, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Special clauses prevented this law from being invoked on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota and the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon. Alaska would later be added to the list upon gaining statehood in 1958. In addition to these mandatory states, Public Law 280 also allowed for any state to assume jusrisdiction over Indian lands by a statute or an amendment to the state constitution. [American Indian Law in a Nut Shell, William C. Canby, Jr.] The main effect of Public Law 280 was to disrupt the special relationship between the federal government and the Indian tribes. Previously the tribes had been regulated directly by the federal government. In Worcester v. Georgia in 1823, the Supreme Court ruled that state laws cannot be enforced on Indian land. [American Indian Law in a Nut Shell, William C. Canby, Jr.]

In 1957–58, a State Senate Interim Committee investigation revealed that little had been done to prepare Indian reserves for termination.cite web
title=A History of American Indians in California: 1934-1964
publisher=National Park Service
] In 1958, the Rancheria Termination Act was enacted.

Western Oregon Indian Termination Act of 1954 – This act terminated about 67 tribes from western Oregon, including the Grand Ronde and Siletz Reservations. This one act terminated more Tribes than all other termination acts combined.

Political Figures

In the summer of 1953, Congress adopted House Concurrent Resolution 108. Some of the main supporters of the termination movement included Assistant Interior Secretary Orme Lewis, Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay and BIA Commissioner Glenn Emmons. Termination's biggest supporter was Senator Arthur Watkins of Utah, and control of Indian affairs was virtually left entirely to him. Arthur Watkins became a Senator in 1946 and quickly became very respected and was known for being isolationist and antilabor. He was also known for his determination, which manifested itself most famously when he chaired the Senate Select Committee that censured Senator Joseph McCarthy. Though there were many flaws that came with the termination policy, this determination allowed Senator Watkins to firmly believe that termination was the best option for the Indians. Because he believed so much in his cause, he was willing to use any methods necessary to get the tribes to agree to termination, including withholding tribal funds, giving witnesses misleading information to reassure them, and asked certain questions of BIA witnesses to make termination seem more positive. [Blood Struggle by Charles Wilkinson]


During 1953–1964, 109 tribes were terminated, approximately convert|1365801|acre|km2 of trust land were removed from protected status, and 13,263 Native Americans lost tribal affiliation. [cite web
title=Ponca Tribe Of Nebraska: Community Environmental Profile
publisher=Mni Sose Intertribal Water Rights Coalition
] As a result of termination, the special federal trustee relationship of the Indians with the federal government ended, they were subjected to state laws, and their lands were converted to private ownership.

The tribes disapproved of Public Law 280, as they disliked states having jurisdiction without tribal consent. The State governments also disapproved of the law, as they didn't want to take on jurisdiction for additional areas without additional funding. Consequently, additional amendments to Public Law 280 were passed to require tribal consent in law enforcement. On May 3, 1958, the Inter Tribal Council of California (ITCC) was founded in response to the pressures of termination and other issues.

Many scholars believe that the termination policy had devastating effects on tribal autonomy, culture and economic welfare.cite journal
last =Walch
first =Michael C.
year =1983
month =July
title =Terminating the Indian Termination Policy
journal =Stanford Law Review
volume =35
issue =6
pages =1181–1215
doi =10.2307/1228583
url =
accessdate =2007-05-01
] [cite web
title=Termination: An Oregon Experience
publisher=University of Oregon College of Education
] The lands belonging to the Native Americans, rich in resources, were taken over by the federal government. The termination policy had disastrous effects on the Menominee tribe (located in Wisconsin) and the Klamath tribes (located in Oregon), forcing many members of the tribes onto public assistance roll

Termination had a devastating effect on both the Health Care and Education of Indians. Along with the end of federal control over land came the end of many federal services which included education and health care. ["American Indian Law" William C. Canby Jr.]


Although before termination the education of Indian children was not good it became worse when the tribes were terminated. The tribes lost federal support for their schools. The states were expected to assume the role of educating the Indian children. [Jon Reyhner and Jeanne Eder American Indian Education] The Menominee children for example did not have their own tribal schools anymore and were discriminated against with the public schools.

Health Care

The Indian Health Service provided health care for many Indian tribes, but once a tribe was terminated they loss their eligibility. ["American Indian Law" William C. Canby Jr.] Many tribes no longer had any hospitals and no means to get health care. For example in the Menominee people had no tribal hospitals or clinics. When there was a tuberculosis epidemic 25 percent of the people were effected and with no means to get treatment. [Charles Wilkinson]

Many Indians relocated off the reservations during termination and therefore had no health care. When they relocated they were given private health care for six months, but then they had none unless they were close to a city Indian health care facility. Eventually the BIA could not provide the needed health of the many tribes that were terminated and therefore the congress eventually had to reform the health care policy of Indians []

Regaining Federal Recognition

There were hundreds of tribes affected by the termination era and only a slim number were able to regain their federal recognition. The tribes were only able to do this through long court battles, which for some tribes took decades and exhasted large amounts of money. Some of these tribes include the Catawba, Coquille, Klamath, Menominee,


The Menominee tribe of Wisconsin was officially terminated on April 30, 1961. Before that time the tribe had been able to support themselves and had been able to fund most of the social programs that were normally funded by the BIA through the logging industry and their lumber mill. Their economic situation however was brittle since they only had one resource. [Blood Struggle by Charles Wilkinson] After they were terminated the commonly held land and money were transferred to a corporation Menominee Enterprises, Inc. (MEI) and the area was made a new county. The Menominee County soon became the poorest county in the state and the MEI funds were rapidly depleted. Many community members including Ada Deer formed a group called the Determination of Rights and Unity for Menominee Stockholders (DRUMS) in 1970 in order to fight to have sovereignty restored to the Menominee. They successfully lobbied to have the tribe’s status restored through the Menominee Restoration Act signed in 1973. The reservation was reformed in 1975, a tribal constitution was signed in 1976 and the new tribal government took over in 1979. -- () 13:12, 6 October 2008 (UTC)


In the 1950's, The Klamath tribe was one of the strongest and most wealthy tribes in the nation. They had created a vigorous economy with timber resources and imported livestock that almost fully supported the entire tribe. The Klamath tribe was no burden on the taxpayers of the state of Oregon and was the only tribe in the country paying their Bureau of Indian Affairs administrative costs. But through the constant pressure in Congress of Senator Arthur Watkins, the Klamath was terminated in 1961. Termination was never supported by any large number of Klamath tribe members, only by a select few that were loyal to Sen. Watkins. After being terminated the tribe was cut off from the essential needs of education, health care, housing and resources that were before provided for them. Termination directly caused decay within the tribe including poverty, alcoholism, high suicide rates, low educational achievement, disintegration of the family, poor housing, high dropout rates from school, disproportionate numbers in penal institutions, increased infant mortality, decreased life expectancy and more. But through the leadership and vision of the Klamath people and the assistance of a few congressional leaders, the Klamath Restoration Act was adopted into law in 1986, reestablishing the Klamath as a sovereign state. [ [ The Klamath Tribes - Termination of the Tribes] ] -- () 13:12, 6 October 2008 (UTC)


After termination in 1959, the Catawba nation was determined to fight to regain federal recognition. In 1973, the Catawbas filed their petition with Congress for federal recognition. It was not until 20 years later, November 20, 1993, that the land claim settlement with the state of South Carolina and the federal government finally came to an end. Based on the Treaty of Nation Ford of 1840, the Catawbas agreed to give up claims on land taken from them by the state of South Carolina. In return, the Catawba Indian Nation received federal recognition and $50 million for economic development, education, social services, and land purchases. [ [ Catawba History] ]


The Coquille tribe of Oregon was terminated in 1954. [] After 30 years of termination the Coquille regained their tribal status on June 28, 1989 through Public Law 101-42. The Coquille Restoration Act recognized the sovereignty of the tribe and its authority as tribal government to manage and administer political and legal jurisdiction over its lands, businesses, and community members. [ [ Coquille Tribe ] ] -- () 13:13, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

Alaskan Natives

The discovery of oil in Alaska brought the issue of native land ownership to the forefront . Due to the fact that Alaska did not become a state until 1959, the Alaskan Natives were passed over as termination began in 1953 and the fervor faded before Alaskan Natives came into the picture. Alaskan Natives hurriedly filed land claims with the Department of the Interior as the state land selections and statehood drew closer. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall was a supporter of the Natives and, in 1966, issued a freeze on the state land selections. He also issued the Deep Freeze in 1969 which declared ninety percent of the state off limits to any form of federal land transfer. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was introduced to provide the state with the land that it was promised in gaining statehood and provided the Natives with a forty million acre land base. This act (43 U.S.C. § 1617) revoked any land claims that the Alaska natives had and divided the land initially into twelve regional (a thirteenth would be added later for natives living outside of the state) and more than 200 local corporations. [] Natives could register with their village or, if they chose not to enroll with their village, could become “at large” shareholders of the regional corporation. Each registered member of the village corporations received 100 shares of stock in the village corporation. The corporations received almost 45 million acres, or about twelve percent of the state of Alaska. Around $962 million from both the federal and state government was also distributed over eleven years. The first five years saw ten percent of the money received go to the shareholders of the company and 45 percent each to the regional and local corporations. Afterwards, half of the money was distributed to the regional corporations and half to the village corporations and “at large” shareholders on a per capita basis. [cite web
title=Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) by Alexandra J. McClanahan

However, the land grant came at a cost. Any child born after the passage of the ANCSA could receive no shares under the statute, but could become shareholders by inheritance. Shares could also be inherited by non-Natives putting the Natives in a troublesome position in maintaining Native control of the corporations. Shares could also be sold after a 20-year period (Wilkinson 237). Sovereignty was extinguished with the ANCSA and all aboriginal rights were subject to state law. ["Wilkinson, Charles. Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005"] --Jesse C. Vineyard 13:30, 6 October 2008 (UTC)


In 1961, President John F. Kennedy decided against implementing any more termination measures, although he did enact some of the last terminations, including that of the Ponca Tribe, which culminated in 1966. Fact|date=February 2008 Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon decided to encourage Indian self-determination instead of termination.

Some tribes resisted the policy by filing civil lawsuits. The litigation lasted until 1980, when the issue made its way to the US Supreme Court. The 1974 Boldt Decision was upheld in 1980 to recognize those treaty rights that were lost.

With problems arising in the 1960s several organizations were formed, such as the American Indian Movement (AIM) and other organizations that helped protect the rights of the Indians and their land. [cite web |url=
title=The Millennium Is Now Here To Celebrate But We Should Also Celebrate 1900s |accessdate=2007-05-01
] In 1975, Congress had implicitly rejected the termination policy by passing the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, which increased the tribal control over reservations and helped with the funding of building schools closer to the reservations. On January 24, 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued an American Indian policy statement that supported explicit repudiation of the termination policy. [cite web
title=American Indian Policy by Ronald Regan

ee also

* Federal Indian Policy
* Americanization (of Native Americans)
* Indian removal
*Indian Reorganization Act


Further reading

* cite book
last =Fixico
first =Donald Lee
title =Termination and Relocation: Federal Indian Policy, 1945-1960
year =1986
publisher =University of New Mexico Press
isbn =0826309089

* cite book
last =Philip
first =Kenneth R.
title =Termination Revisited: American Indians on the Trail to Self-determination, 1933-1953
year =1999
publisher =University of Nebraska Press
isbn =0803237235

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