Indian New Deal, Tribal Termination, and Urban Relocation 1934-1967


Congress passes Indian Reorganization Act

The Meriam Report provides impetus for the development of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), also known as the Indian New Deal. The IRA is developed to halt the break-up of Indian lands through the allotment system, to develop Indian land reform efforts, and to support development of Indian economic and tribal self-sufficiency. The bill supports re-development of tribal governments, though these governments are mandated to be a mirror image of American systems and not representative of traditional tribal systems of government. Title II of the IRA also supports Indian education and preservation of Indian heritage. Title III repeals the General Allotment Act and outlines a system for land consolidation; Title IV calls for the creation of an Indian court system to exercise jurisdiction on reservations. The bill allows the Secretary of the Interior to force the sale of allotments and implement exchanges to consolidate lands. After much controversy and debate in Congress, the bill withdraws Titles III and IV from the final Act. Moreover, Alaska and Oklahoma are excluded from most provisions. The Act gives tribes one year to adopt a tribal council form of government that the federal government imposes; if they do not adopt these governments then they have no way of negotiating education and healthcare for their communities and reservations. The Klamath, Dine’, Crow, Fort Peck, Sisseton, and Turtle Mountain Chippewa all reject the IRA government system. Overall, 77 tribes reject it and 181 tribes accept it. Many tribes feel that the bill is not legal, given the binding of the old treaties, and believe that no changes to treaties can be undertaken without three-quarters of the tribe achieving consensus and approval for the change (Nies, 1996).

Settler Colonial Policy