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Termination and Relocation

Professor Mayer's lecture reminds us that the federal policies of Termination and Relocation worked collectively to undermine Roosevelt's Indian New Deal. This week in Tribal Perspectives we provide you with general background information on these policies, and interviews with tribal members about their specific effects.

Termination Policy

While the Postwar years (1945-1961) brought a tremendous economic boom to the West, it was a period that proved to be a "double-edged sword" for Native Americans.

Termination, a mid-twentieth-century U.S. government policy toward American Indians, was enacted to facilitate the long-standing goals of assimilation and self-determination by ending government programs supporting tribes. The evolving termination policy of the 1950s and 1960s attempted to reverse previous policies under John Collier (Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1933-45) and the Roosevelt administration's liberal New Deal programs. New Deal policy promoted Native American cultural and political pluralism by aiming to end policies of forced assimilation and allow tribes to retain their sovereignty and develop within the context of their own cultures. The New Deal approach to Native Americans threatened post-war ideology. According to historian Larry Burt:

Conservative terminationists saw traditional Indian communal social structures as too similar to the dreaded communist systems that they perceived the United States to be in conflict with during the Cold War. They also found Indian sovereignty, or dual citizenship as they often called it, unacceptable (Burt, 1986).

The doctrine of termination involved closing tribal rolls, then liquidating and distributing tribal assets by single per capita payments to each tribe's current membership. Of paramount importance was the termination of all federal supervision of Indians, thus ending the trust status of all Indian-owned lands.

Introduced by Utah Senator Arthur Watkins, House Concurrent Resolution 108 (Termination) was widely supported by conservative bureaucrats and politicians. From the time the measure passed until its ultimate renunciation by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970, Congress initiated sixty separate termination proceedings impacting numerous Indian tribes.

To read the brief text of termination policy, refer to the following document link: U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 108, 83rd Congress, 1953 (US Statutes at Large, 67:B132): http://digital.library.okstate.edu/Kappler/vol6/html_files/v6p0614.html from the OSU Library Electronic Publishing Center (1953-08-01), accessed 01/18/2008.