Indian termination policy
Indian termination was the policy of the United States from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s. The belief was that Native Americans would be better off if assimilated as individuals into mainstream American society. To that end, Congress proposed to end the special relationship between tribes and the federal government. The intention was to grant Native Americans all the rights and privileges of citizenship, and to reduce their dependence on a bureaucracy whose mismanagement had been documented.
In practical terms, the policy terminated the U.S. government's recognition of sovereignty of tribes, trusteeship of Indian reservations, and exclusion of Indians from state laws. Native Americans were to become subject to state and federal taxes as well as laws, from which they had previously been exempt.
- 1 Process
- 2 Enabling legislation
- 3 Special relationship terminations
- 4 Political figures
- 5 Effects
- 6 Regaining federal recognition
- 7 Alaskan Natives
- 8 Repudiation
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
The House concurrent resolution 108 of 1953 announced the federal policy of termination and called for the immediate termination of the Federal relationship with the Menominee and Klamath tribes. Congress passed termination acts on a tribe by tribe basis. Most such acts included the end of federal recognition and all the federal aid that came along with being federally recognized tribes. From 1953-1964, the government terminated recognition of a total of 109 tribes and bands as sovereign dependent nations. The population of Native Americans who gave up tribal affiliation totaled over 12,000 Native Americans or 3% of the total Native American population. Approximately 2,500,000 acres (10,000 km2) of trust land was removed from protected status during these years. Much was sold by individuals to non-Natives.
The termination of these tribes ended federal government relations with and recognition of those tribal governments and ended federal recognition of tribal jurisdiction over their lands. In addition to ending the tribal rights as sovereign nations, the policy terminated federal support of most of the health care and education programs, police and fire fighting departments available to Indians on reservations. Given the considerable geographic isolation of many reservations and inherent economic problems, not many tribes had the funds to continue such services after termination was implemented. The tribes initially selected for termination had been considered groups who were the most successful in the United States, in some cases, because of natural resources controlled by their reservations. Few tribes were able to fight legal battles in an effort, and success for some, to restore tribal government and the special relationship with the United States federal government.
This article covers the process by which the Alaskan Natives avoided termination and the effects of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The Alaskan Natives are viewed no differently in the eyes of the government to other Native Americans. The Alaskan Natives persevered to retain their lands but suffered negative consequences as well. As a whole, termination had lasting effects on Native Americans and the policies used in negotiation.
In 1943 the United States Senate commissioned a survey of Indian conditions. It indicated that living conditions on the reservations were extremely poor. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and its bureaucracy were found to be at fault for the troubling problems due to extreme mismanagement. Congress concluded that some tribes no longer needed federal protection and would be better off with more independence, rather than having them depend on and be poorly supervised by the BIA. They also thought the tribes should be part of mainstream American society. Goals of termination included freeing the Indians from domination by the BIA, repealing laws that discriminated against Indians, and ending federal supervision of the Indians. Senator Arthur V. Watkins of Utah, the strongest proponent of termination, equated it with the Emancipation Proclamation, which had declared the freedom of all slaves in the territory of the Confederate States of America.
|“||Whereas it is the policy of Congress, as rapidly as possible, to make the Indians within the territorial limits of the United States subject to the same laws and entitled to the same privileges and responsibilities as are applicable to other citizens of the United States, to end their status as wards of the United States, and to grant them all of the rights and prerogatives pertaining to American citizenship.||”|
House Concurrent Resolution 108
House Concurrent Resolution 108 of 1953 was a formal statement by the United States Congress announcing the official federal policy of termination. The resolution called for the immediate termination of the Flathead, Klamath, Menominee, Potawatomi, 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. 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.
Public Law 280
Public Law 280, passed in 1953, gave State governments the power to assume jurisdiction over Indian reservations, which had previously been excluded from state jurisdiction. 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. After being admitted as a state in 1958, Alaska was added to the list of covered states where termination would be the goal. Public Law 280 also allowed any state to assume jurisdiction over Indian lands by a statute or an amendment to the state constitution. This law made both the states and Native Americans unhappy: the former because they had new responsibilities without any increase in funding to support additional staff and supplies, the latter because they were subject to new laws.
The main effect of Public Law 280 was to disrupt the relationship between the federal government and the Indian tribes. Previously the tribes had been regulated directly by the federal government. In Worcester v. Georgia (1832), the Supreme Court had ruled that state laws cannot be enforced on Indian land. While this preserved a kind of sovereignty and independence for tribes on reservations, in other ways they depended on a complex bureaucracy for services.
Special relationship terminations
Termination acts were passed dealing with particular tribes or groups of tribes because of special circumstances. They followed the basic termination policies, but sometimes had minor variations.
Menominee Termination Act
This act was unique because it left out termination of Menominee hunting and fishing rights. The state of Wisconsin tried to subject the Menominee tribe to state hunting and fishing regulations, including requiring individuals to get permits for hunting. When the tribe filed suit against the state to defend their treaty rights, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld these regulations. They ruled that Congress had abrogated all Menominee hunting and fishing rights by passing the Menominee Termination Act.
The tribe appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1968 in Menominee Tribe v. United States. The U.S. Supreme Court found that termination of a tribe did not abrogate treaty rights unless there was specific legislative intent to do so. The Menominees' hunting and fishing rights were guaranteed under the Wolf River Treaty of 1854. Since the Menominee Termination Act made no mention of these treaty hunting and fishing rights, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the treaty rights had not been abrogated. They ruled that the Menominee were still entitled to their traditional hunting and fishing rights free from state control.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court had gone against Public Law 280 when they denied the Menominee their hunting and fishing rights (124 N.W.2d 41, 1963). Public Law 280 explicitly states that "Nothing in this section... shall deprive any Indian or any Indian tribe, band, or community of any right, privilege, or immunity afforded under Federal treaty, agreement or statute with respect to hunting, trapping, or fishing or the control, licensing, or regulation thereof."  These proceedings show that while the abrogation of federal treaties is legal (under Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock), Congressional intent to abrogate these treaties cannot be inferred, it must be explicit. Unless specifically abrogated by Congress, treaty rights remain in effect, whether a tribe is terminated or not.
Klamath Termination Act
The Klamath tribe in Oregon was terminated under the Klamath Termination Act, or Public Law 587, enacted on August 13, 1954. Under this act, all federal supervision over Klamath lands, as well as federal aid provided to the Klamath because of their special status as Indians, was terminated. The legislation required each tribal member to choose between remaining a member of the tribe, or withdrawing and receiving a monetary payment for the value of the individual share of tribal land. Those who stayed became members of a tribal management plan. This plan became a trust relationship between tribal members and the United States National Bank in Portland, Oregon. Of the 2,133 members of the Klamath tribe at the time of termination, 1,660 decided to withdraw from the tribe and accept individual payments for land.
Termination led to lawsuits, as individual Klamath Indians struggled to preserve treaty hunting and fishing rights. Five Klamath Indians who had withdrawn from the tribe after Public Law 587 claimed they retained hunting and fishing rights guaranteed to the Klamath tribe in the Treaty of October 16, 1854. After a U.S. district court ruled against them, they filed an appeal under Kimball v. Callahan.
Based on reasoning similar to that in Menominee v. United States, the U.S. District Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit found that, since the Klamath Termination Act did not specifically abrogate Klamath hunting and fishing rights, these rights remained. The court looked at the stipulation in Public Law 280, providing that no state could deprive an Indian tribe (or individual members) of hunting and fishing rights guaranteed to them by federal treaty.
Western Oregon Indian Termination Act
The Western Oregon Indian Termination Act, or Public Law 588, was passed in August 1954. It called for termination of federal supervision over the trust and restricted property of numerous Native American bands and small tribes, all located west of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. The act also called for disposition of federally owned property which had been bought for the administration of Indian affairs, and for termination of federal services which these Indians received under federal recognition. The stipulations in this act were similar to those of most termination acts. The Western Oregon Indian Termination Act was unique because of the number of tribes it affected. In all, 61 tribes in western Oregon were terminated. This total of tribes numbered more than the total of those terminated under all other individual acts.
California Rancheria Termination Act
In 1958, Congress passed the California Rancheria Termination Act, Public Law 85-671 (72 Stat. 619). The act called for the distribution of all 41 rancheria communal lands and assets to individual tribe members. It called for a plan "for distributing to individual Indians the assets of the reservation or Rancheria, including the assigned and the unassigned lands, or for selling such assets and distributing the proceeds of sale, or conveying such assets to a corporation or other legal entity organized or designed by the group, or for conveying such assets to the group, as tenants in common."  Before the land could be distributed, the act called for a government survey of land on the rancheria. The government was required to improve or construct all roads serving the rancheria, to install or rehabilitate irrigation, sanitation, and domestic water systems, and to exchange land held in trust for the rancheria. All Indians who received a portion of the assets were ineligible to receive any more federal services rendered to them based on their status as Indians.
In 1957–58, a State Senate Interim Committee investigation revealed that little had been done to prepare Indian reserves for termination. In 1958, the Rancheria Termination Act was enacted. In 1964, an amendment to the California Rancheria Termination Act (78 Stat. 390) was enacted, terminating additional rancheria lands.
Some of the major supporters of the termination movement included political appointees of the Republican administration: Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay, Assistant Interior Secretary Orme Lewis, and BIA Commissioner Glenn L. Emmons. Republican Senator Arthur Watkins of Utah was the chief Congressional proponent of Indian termination. Congressmen with other interests took direction from him in relation to Indian affairs. Watkins represented interests who wanted to get control of Indian lands.
Arthur Watkins became a Senator in 1946 and quickly became respected. He was considered isolationist and antilabor. He was also known for his determination and chaired the Senate Select Committee that censured Senator Joseph McCarthy. Though the termination policy had numerous flaws, Watkins believed it was the best option for the Indians.
"Perhaps because he believed tribal assent superfluous and doubted the validity of Indian treaties, Senator Watkins resorted to strong-arm tactics in the drive toward termination. He gave witnesses misleading assurances and erroneous information concerning the intent of Congress. He asked leading questions of BIA witnesses to create an optimistic picture of Indian competency for termination."
Watkins developed his ideas from outside the situation, independently of talking with Native Americans. He had few, if any, personal relationships with them and had not held hearings to find out their opinions. It was not until February 1954 that Senator Watkins and House Representative Republican E. Y. Berry of South Dakota held any joint Senate-House subcommittee hearings. Their intent was to speed the process of termination. The first hearing was for six Southern Paiute and Shoshone tribes in Utah. After two months of hearings, Congress passed the Southern Paiute Termination Act. Also included in the first set of hearings were the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin and the Klamath tribe of Oregon, which were also two of the biggest tribes proposed for termination.
When Senator Watkins went to the Menominee reservation to get the tribe's consent, he told them he believed that termination for the tribe was inevitable. The Menominee voted overwhelmingly in favor of termination. Watkins became known for being "especially firm with tribal witnesses. The Menominee could see that the chairman was unbending." They believed they had no choice but to accept termination.
An unusual aspect of the Klamath tribe termination hearing was that E. Morgan Pryse, the BIA area director from Portland, Oregon, testified against termination. He testified that the process would put Klamath land ownership at risk, because he knew individuals would be pressured to sell their lands. Most people affiliated with the BIA were understood to favor termination.
Several tribal leaders played important roles in the process of termination, including Choctaw Chief Harry J. W. Belvin. Belvin lobbied heavily for Choctaw termination, which contributed to the tribe's being one of 109 scheduled for termination. The effective date of the policy was pushed back three times, and the termination law was repealed in 1970, after another change in policy. Many of the younger members of the Choctaw tribe opposed termination and got Belvin's attention. By 1970, Belvin had turned from supporting termination to advocating its repeal.
Ada Deer was instrumental in reversing termination. She was a leader in regaining tribal status for the Menominee tribe. Deer and other Menominee leaders believed that "only repeal of the termination act, return of the land to its trust status, and full recognition of the tribe and its sovereign authority could right the wrongs against their people and their land." Ada Deer faced strong opposition from House Interior Committee chairman Wayne Aspinall, who had been a long-time supporter of termination. The Menominee bill to reverse termination had to go through his committee. Deer's work paid off when Aspinall was upset in the Colorado Democratic primary in 1972, and thus lost his committee chair.
In 1973, Congressmen Lloyd Meeds and Manuel Lujan held House field hearings. The Menominee Restoration Act moved quickly through Congress, and President Richard Nixon signed it into law December 1973. In 1975, the restoration was complete when Secretary of the Interior Rogers Morton held a ceremony in which he signed the documents that dissolved Menominee Enterprises, Incorporated. He gave all Menominee lands back to the tribe. Ada Deer's work to reverse Menominee termination was successful.
James White worked alongside Ada Deer to help bring about the reversal of termination. White helped found the organization known as Determination of Rights and Unity for Menominee Stockholders (DRUMS) in 1970. Members of DRUMS strongly protested the development of the Legend Lake project and put up their own candidates for election to Menominee Enterprises, Inc. board of directors. DRUMS succeeded in blocking the planned Legend Lake development and controlled most of the board of MEI by 1972. In addition, White's work with DRUMS helped bring about the reversal of Menominee termination.
During 1953–1964, 109 tribes were terminated, approximately 1,365,801 acres (5,527 km2) of trust land were removed from protected status, and 13,263 Native Americans lost tribal affiliation. 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. 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 the public assistance roll.
Termination had a devastating effect on the health care and education of Indians along with the economic stability of tribes. Along with the end of federal control over land came the end of many federal services which included education and health care.
By 1972 termination clearly had affected the tribes' education. There was a 75 percent dropout rate for the Menominee Tribe, which resulted in a generation of Menominee children who had only a ninth grade education. The tribes lost federal support for their schools, and the states were expected to assume the role of educating the Indian children. The Menominee children, for example, did not have their own tribal schools anymore and were discriminated against within the public schools. The Menominee education program became a part of Joint School District No. 8. Younger children were still able to attend schools close to their homes, but high school students had to travel to either Gresham, Wisconsin, or Shawano for schooling. All terminated tribes faced new education policies, which gave the children fewer educational opportunities that were not as good as what the whites received.
The idea of termination was to restore complete sovereignty to the United States, and to encourage assimilation into a modern, individualistic society, rather than a savage tribal mentality. In 1966 the Keshena and Neopit 3rd and 6th graders' success on the Iowa Test for basic skills was compared to the rest of their school district (Joint School District No. 8). The school district had a composite grade for the 3rd and 6th graders of 82 percent and 60 percent, respectively. However, the two schools composed mostly of Indian students had drastically lower scores. Keshena's scores on this same test were about 13 percent for the 3rd graders and 17 percent for the 6th graders, while Neopit's were 15 percent for the 3rd graders and 8 percent for the 6th graders. From these test scores, it can be seen that education was not improved when termination occurred and the Indians' level of education was nowhere near that of whites in the area.
Terminated tribal children struggled to stay in school, and those who did were excluded from programs that paid for higher Indian education. In 1970 the BIA began to make annual grants that gave scholarships to Indians to attend college. This helped the non-terminated tribes, but individuals within terminated tribes were not allowed to apply for these funds. As a result, individuals who were successful and managed to graduate from high school had trouble going to college because they could not apply for scholarship assistance.
The Indian Health Service provided health care for many Indian tribes, but once a tribe was terminated they lost their eligibility. Many tribes no longer had easy access to hospitals and had no means to get health care. For example, the Menominee people had no tribal hospitals or clinics. The tribal hospital at Keshena had to close because it did not meet state standards, and the lack of funds available prevented the county from making improvements. Along with the hospital, the tribal clinic was also closed after termination occurred. When there was a tuberculosis epidemic, 25 percent of the people were affected and had no means to get treatment because there was no longer a hospital or a clinic. The health standards of Indians fell well below those of whites. The Menominee tribe had three times the infant mortality rate as the rest of the state. Dental care was also affected by termination; ninety percent of school age children in the Menominee tribe were in need of dental care, which was no longer provided as a free service since they did not have tribal status. The Western Oregon tribes who were terminated, much like the Menominee tribe, also felt the effects of termination on their health care services. In a 1976 survey, 75 percent of the Indians in Western Oregon reported needing dental care and 30 percent were in need of eye glasses. In addition to affecting adults, schools also reported that the primary problem for Indian children was the need of medical treatment that their parents could not afford.
Many Indians relocated off the reservations during termination and also had no access to 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 Bureau of Indian Affairs could not provide necessary health services for the many tribes that were terminated, and congress eventually had to reform the Indian health care policy. Although termination had devastating effects on the health care for Indians in general, it did at least help create the Indian Health Service.
Termination, although not the only cause of Indian poverty, had a significant effect on it. The Menominee tribe proves a strong example of this; although the economy of the Menominee tribe had never flourished, it became even worse after the tribe was terminated. Prior to termination, Menominee income centered around the mill which was built on a community philosophy and tried to employ as many individuals as possible. After termination the mill was run as a business and unemployment rose to between 18 and 28 percent. The mill did generate increased net sales, however; $4,865,000 in 1973 compared to $1,660,700 in 1961. Despite higher sales, the mill's net loss was also much higher in 1973 ($709,000 compared with only a net loss of $108,700 in 1961); this was largely due to the mill's property taxes increasing from $164,000 in 1961 to $607,300 in 1973. With no new industry and the new taxes being introduced, 80 percent of the tribal population fell below the poverty line. In the 1960s, they were forced to sell ancestral land and went from having $10 million in a federal reserve to being considered a "pocket of poverty". Welfare costs within the county also increased during the period of termination. In 1963, tribal members were given a total of $49,723 for welfare, but by 1968 the amount had nearly doubled. As termination continued, the struggles only became worse for the tribe.
As termination continued, the unemployment rates continued to increase. The Menominee tribe had 800 individuals within the tribe and 220 individuals who were unemployed in June 1968. By June 1973, right before the termination policy ended, the tribe had almost a 40 percent unemployment rate, with only 660 individuals in the tribe and 260 individuals who were unemployed.
The Menominee Indians experienced high poverty rates from the very beginning of termination, unlike the Klamath Tribe which was able to escape poverty for a brief period. The Klamath tribe had for years been living off timber and revenue from leasing tribal lands. When termination occurred, tribal land was sold and most of the Klamath tribe was considered above the poverty line, because each tribal member gained $40,000 from the sale. While they had escaped poverty briefly, their economy still suffered from termination. Most families quickly spent the money earned from the initial land sale and were forced to sell more land in order obtain food for the family. After just a few years, the Klamath tribe was in the same situation as many other tribes that were terminated.
Regaining federal recognition
Of the more than one hundred tribes terminated during this era, a few were able to regain their federal recognition. The tribes achieved this through long court battles, which for some tribes took decades and exhausted large amounts of money.
Tribal leaders such as Ada Deer and James White of the Menominee played key roles in getting their cases heard by the United States Congress, through the political process, and by the Supreme Court in suits and appeals. The tribes garnered publicity by creating resistance groups. These both publicly protested the termination policy, and fought political and court battles in Washington for restoration of tribal sovereignty or other goals. Tribes which were terminated but regained their status as sovereign states include the Catawba, Coquille, Klamath, and Menominee. Other tribes, such as the Choctaw, were able to delay termination long enough to have it cancelled before implementation. The Lumbee have been recognized as an American Indian tribe by the State of North Carolina since 1885. In 1956, the U.S. Congress also recognized the Lumbee as an American Indian tribe but denied federal Indian benefits. The 1956 Lumbee Act blocked the BIA from fully recognizing the Lumbee and withheld the full benefits of federal recognition from the tribe. Efforts are currently underway to pass federal legislation that will grant full recognition.
The Menominee tribe of Wisconsin was one of the first tribes proposed for termination. Observers believed they did not need governmental services because of the value of their timber lands. Congress passed the act to terminate the Menominee in 1954, but it was not until April 30, 1961, that they were officially terminated.
The Menominee did not initially cooperate with the new policy. They had recently won a court case against the government over mismanagement of forestry enterprises, and Senator Watkins threatened to withhold the $8.5 million settlement unless the Menominee agreed to termination. Previously, the tribe had been able to support themselves and fund most social programs with revenue generated by the logging industry and lumber mill. Their economic situation, however, was precarious since they only had one resource.
After they were terminated, the commonly held land and money were transferred to the corporation Menominee Enterprises, Inc. (MEI), and the geographical area of the reservation was admitted to the state as a new county. Menominee County soon became the poorest county in the state. MEI funds were rapidly depleted. Concern about corruption within MEI, including its selling of former tribal land, led community members such as Ada Deer and James White to form a group called the Determination of Rights and Unity for Menominee Stockholders (DRUMS) in 1970.
They fought to regain control of MEI and, by the end of 1972, they controlled the corporation. The activists worked to restore Menominee tribal government and regain sovereignty. Their success was reflected in the Menominee Restoration Act, signed by President Richard Nixon in 1973. With the help of the Menominee Restoration Committee (MCR), the reservation was reformed in 1975, a tribal constitution was signed in 1976, and the new tribal government took over in 1979.
In the 1950s, the Klamath tribe was one of the strongest and most wealthy tribes in the nation. They had created a vigorous economy based on timber resources and imported livestock, which nearly fully supported the entire tribe. The Klamath tribe was not a burden to the Oregon taxpayers, and was the only tribe in the country paying its share of BIA administrative costs. The Klamath was terminated in 1961 as a result of constant pressure by Senator Arthur Watkins.
Within the tribe, termination had been supported only by a few who were loyal to Sen. Watkins. After being terminated, the tribe was cut off from services for education, health care, housing and related resources. 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.
After termination in 1959, the Catawba nation in South Carolina was determined to fight to regain federal recognition. In 1973, the Catawba filed their petition with the United States 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 Nations Ford of 1840, the Catawba 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.
The Coquille tribe of Oregon was terminated in 1954. Thirty years later, 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. It also recognized the authority of the tribal government to manage and administer political and legal jurisdiction over its lands, businesses, and community members.
The Choctaw tribe was one of the members of the Five Civilized Tribes of the American Southeast; they were removed to Indian Territory in the 1830s. For most of the twentieth century, the Choctaw had worked to assimilate into the majority culture. In the late 1950s, termination was supported by the Choctaw chief Harry J. W. Belvin. After eleven years as Choctaw chief, Belvin persuaded Representative Carl Albert of Oklahoma to introduce federal legislation to begin terminating the Choctaw tribe.
In 1959, Congress voted on a bill to terminate the tribe, which was later called Belvin's law as he was the main advocate behind it. Belvin created overwhelming support for termination among tribespeople through his promotion of the bill, describing the process and expected outcomes. Tribal members later interviewed said that Belvin never used the word "termination" for what he was describing, and many people were unaware he was proposing termination.
The Choctaw people in Oklahoma had seen what termination could do to tribes, since they witnessed the process with four other tribes in the state: the Wyandot, Peoria, Ottawa, and Modoc. In 1969, ten years after passage of the Choctaw termination bill and one year before the Choctaws were to be terminated, word spread throughout the tribe that Belvin's law was a termination bill. Outrage over the bill generated a feeling of betrayal, and tribal activists formed resistance groups opposing termination. Groups such as the Choctaw Youth Movement in the late 1960s fought politically against the termination law. They helped create a new sense of tribal pride, especially among younger generations. Their protest delayed termination; Congress finally repealed the law on August 24, 1970.
Because Alaska had not previously been admitted to statehood, Native American issues played out differently there. The discovery of oil in the Kenai Peninsula and Cook Inlet regions in 1957, and along the North Slope in 1968, brought the issue of native land ownership to the forefront of a conflict over state land selection.
In 1936, the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) was extended to include the Alaskan natives. As Alaska did not become a state until 1959, the Alaskan Natives were passed over as termination policy formed in 1953. The fervor for termination faded before Alaskan Natives became subjects of the discussion. Alaskan Natives hurriedly filed land claims with the Department of the Interior as state land selections and statehood drew closer.
Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall was a supporter of the Natives. In 1966, he issued a freeze on state land selections. In 1969 he issued the Deep Freeze, which declared ninety percent of the state off limits to any form of federal land transfer. One of the main bodies responsible for representing the interests of the Alaskan Natives is the Alaska Federation of Natives. From 1966 to 1971, this group lobbied for a fair land claims settlement act, which resulted in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). ANCSA was intended both to provide the state with land promised in gaining statehood and the Natives with a 40-million-acre (160,000 km2) land base.
This act (43 U.S.C. § 1617) was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 18, 1971. It revoked previous land claims by the Alaskan natives. Initially, the legislation divided the land into twelve regional (a thirteenth would be added later for natives living outside of the state) and 220 local corporations. U.S. citizens with one-fourth (equivalent to one grandparent) or more Alaska Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut blood living when the Act was passed were considered Native American, and were qualified to participate in receiving dividends from oil production. 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. (Note: The Tsimshian Indians of the Annette Island Reserve of Metlakatla had been granted a reserve from Congress after emigrating from Canada; they were exempt from ANCSA.)
Each registered member of the village corporations received 100 shares of stock in the village corporation. The corporations were granted the 44-million-acre (180,000 km2) land base, or about twelve percent of the state of Alaska. In addition, they received around $962.5 million from both federal and state governments, which was 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. Afterward, 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.
Response and effects
The land grant came at a cost. Aboriginal title to the land and aboriginal hunting and fishing rights were extinguished by the act in exchange for fee-simple title to the land and monetary grants to the Native corporations. Certain aboriginal rights, including subsistence and medical care, were protected under other laws, including the Nelson Act of 1905, the Snyder Act of 1921, the Health Facilities Act of 1957, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Indian Self-Determination Act of 1975, and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 1976. In addition, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) protected over 100 million acres (400,000 km2) of federal lands in Alaska and the subsistence lifestyle of the Alaskan Natives. This act, passed into law in 1980, doubled the size of the country’s national park and refuge system. It created 10 new national parks and increased the area of three existing units. By enacting this law, the government effectively protected land for the Alaskan Natives to continue subsistence living. These laws indicate that the government does not distinguish between tribal nations and the Alaskan Native.
A negative aspect of the ANCSA was that 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 difficult position in trying to maintain Native control of the corporations. Shares could also be sold after a 20-year period. Sovereignty was extinguished with the ANCSA and all aboriginal rights were subject to state law. The village corporations owned only the surface of the selected land. Minerals located below the surface belonged to the regional corporations.
By the early 1960s, some federal leaders began opposing the implementation of any more termination measures, although the administration of President John F. Kennedy did oversee some of the last terminations. The final termination, that of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, legally began in 1962—after Kennedy signed the order, at the urging of Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall—and culminated in 1966. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon decided to encourage Indian self-determination instead of termination.
|“||Forced termination is wrong, in my judgment, for a number of reasons. First, the premises on which it rests are wrong.... The second reason for rejecting forced termination is that the practical results have been clearly harmful in the few instances in which termination actually has been tried.... The third argument I would make against forced termination concerns the effect it has had upon the overwhelming majority of tribes which still enjoy a special relationship with the Federal government.... The recommendations of this administration represent an historic step forward in Indian policy. We are proposing to break sharply with past approaches to Indian problems.||”|
—- President Richard Nixon, Special Message on Indian Affairs, July 8, 1970.
Some tribes resisted the policy by filing civil lawsuits. The litigation lasted until 1980, when the issue made its way to the U.S. 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 Indians and their land. In 1975, Congress had implicitly rejected the termination policy by passing the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, which increased tribal control over reservations and helped with funding to build schools closer to reservations. On January 24, 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued an American Indian policy statement that supported explicit repudiation of the termination policy.
- Federal Indian Policy
- Americanization (of Native Americans)
- Indian removal
- Indian Reorganization Act
- Occupation of Alcatraz
- Former Indian Reservations in Oklahoma
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