Why Was Federal Land Grant Legislation So Contentious

Why Was Federal Land Grant Legislation So Contentious.

Andrew Boxer traces the origins of a historical issue still as controversial and relevant today as in by centuries.

At the start of the twentieth century there were approximately 250,000 Native Americans in the USA – just 0.3 per cent of the population – almost living on reservations where they exercised a limited degree of self-regime. During the grade of the nineteenth century they had been deprived of much of their land by forced removal westwards, by a succession of treaties (which were often not honoured past the white authorities) and by military machine defeat by the United states as it expanded its control over the American Due west.

In 1831 the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, had attempted to define their status. He declared that Indian tribes were ‘domestic dependent nations’ whose ‘relation to the United States resembles that of a ward to his guardian’. Marshall was, in upshot, recognising that America’s Indians are unique in that, unlike any other minority, they are both split up nations and role of the United states of america. This helps to explain why relations between the federal government and the Native Americans have been so troubled. A guardian prepares his ward for adult independence, and so Marshall’s judgement implies that US policy should aim to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream US culture. But a guardian also protects and nurtures a ward until adulthood is achieved, and therefore Marshall also suggests that the federal government has a special obligation to treat its Native American population. Equally a outcome, federal policy towards Native Americans has lurched dorsum and along, sometimes aiming for absorption and, at other times, recognising its responsibility for assisting Indian development.

What complicates the story farther is that (again, unlike other minorities seeking recognition of their civil rights) Indians have possessed some valuable reservation land and resources over which white Americans take cast envious optics. Much of this was subsequently lost and, as a outcome, the history of Native Americans is often presented as a morality tale. White Americans, headed by the federal authorities, were the ‘bad guys’, adulterous Indians out of their land and resources. Native Americans were the ‘good guys’, attempting to maintain a traditional way of life much more than in harmony with nature and the environment than the rampant capitalism of white America, but powerless to defend their interests. Only twice, according to this narrative, did the federal government redeem itself: firstly during the Indian New Bargain from 1933 to 1945, and secondly in the final decades of the century when Congress belatedly attempted to redress some Native American grievances.

There is a lot of truth in this summary, only it is too simplistic. There is no doubtfulness that Native Americans suffered enormously at the hands of white Americans, only federal Indian policy was shaped as much by paternalism, withal misguided, as by white greed. Nor were Indians simply passive victims of white Americans’ actions. Their responses to federal policies, white Americans’ actions and the fundamental economic, social and political changes of the twentieth century were varied and divisive. These tensions and cross-currents are clearly evident in the history of the Indian New Deal and the policy of termination that replaced it in the belatedly 1940s and 1950s. Native American history in the mid-twentieth century was much more than a unproblematic story of good and evil, and it raises important questions (still unanswered today) well-nigh the status of Native Americans in modern The states society.

The Dawes Act

Between 1887 and 1933, US government policy aimed to assimilate Indians into mainstream American society. Although to modern observers this policy looks both patronising and racist, the white elite that dominated Usa social club saw it as a civilising mission, comparable to the piece of work of European missionaries in Africa. As one Us philanthropist put it in 1886, the Indians were to be ‘safely guided from the nighttime of barbarism into the fair dawn of Christian civilisation’. In practice, this meant requiring them to become as much like white Americans as possible: converting to Christianity, speaking English, wearing western clothes and hair styles, and living as selfsufficient, contained Americans.

Federal policy was enshrined in the General Allocation (Dawes) Human action of 1887 which decreed that Indian Reservation land was to be divided into plots and allocated to individual Native Americans. These plots could not be sold for 25 years, but reservation land left over afterward the distribution of allotments could be sold to outsiders. This meant that the Human activity became, in practice, an opportunity for land-hungry white Americans to learn Indian land, a process accelerated by the 1903 Supreme Court decision in
Lone Wolf five. Hitchcock
that Congress could dispose of Indian land without gaining the consent of the Indians involved. Not surprisingly, the amount of Indian land shrank from 154 million acres in 1887 to a mere 48 one thousand thousand half a century later.

The Dawes Deed also promised The states citizenship to Native Americans who took advantage of the allotment policy and ‘adopted the habits of civilized life’. This meant that the educational activity of Native American children – many in boarding schools abroad from the influence of their parents – was considered an essential function of the civilising process. The principal of the best-known school for Indian children at Carlisle in Pennsylvania boasted that his aim for each child was to ‘kill the Indian in him and salve the homo’.

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John Collier and the Indian New Bargain

The 1924 Citizenship Human activity granted US citizenship to all Native Americans who had not already acquired information technology. In theory, this recognised the success of the absorption policy, just the reality was different. Indians were denied the vote in many Western states by much the same methods every bit African-Americans were disenfranchised in the South. The Meriam Study, published in 1928, showed that most Indians lived in farthermost poverty, suffering from a poor diet, inadequate housing and limited health care. Schools were overcrowded and badly resourced. The Meriam Written report, while accepting that government policy should continue to enable Indians to ‘merge into the social and economical life of the prevailing civilization as adopted by the whites’, rejected ‘the disastrous attempt to force individual Indians or groups of Indians to exist what they do not want to exist, to break their pride in themselves and their Indian race, or to deprive them of their Indian civilisation’.

This new approach to Native Americans was enthusiastically endorsed by John Collier, who became Commissioner for Indian Diplomacy in 1933. Collier, a white American, believed that Native American community life and respect for the environment had much to teach American materialism, and he became passionately determined to preserve as much of the traditional Indian way of life as possible. In particular, he wanted Native American reservations to be permanent, sovereign homelands. The centrepiece of his new policy was the 1934 Indian Reorganisation Act (IRA) which ended the policy of allotment, banned the further sale of Indian land and decreed that any unallotted land not yet sold should be returned to tribal command. It also granted Indian communities a measure of governmental and judicial autonomy.

The IRA was vitally important in arresting the loss of Indian resources, and Collier, by directing New Deal funds towards the regeneration of Indian reservations, successfully encouraged a renewed respect for Native American civilisation and traditions. Not surprisingly, some historians sympathetic to Native Americans have placed him and the IRA on a pedestal. Vine Deloria Jnr described the IRA as ‘perhaps the only brilliant spot in all of Indian-Congressional relations’ and Angie Debo praised Collier as ‘aggressive, fearless, defended … an nigh fanatical admirer of the Indian spirit’.

Other historians, however, accept argued that the IRA was highly controversial and, in many respects, unsuccessful. The Act causeless that nigh Native Americans wanted to remain on their reservations, and so it was vigorously opposed by those Indians who wanted to digest into white gild and who resented the paternalism of the Bureau of Indian Diplomacy (BIA). These Indians criticised the IRA as a regressive ‘backto- the-blanket’ policy that aimed to turn them into living museum exhibits. Although the IRA was accepted by 174 out of a total of 252 Indian tribes, a number of the larger tribes were among those who rejected it. Historian Lawrence Kelly tells u.s. that ‘of approximately 97,000 Indians who were declared eligible to vote, only 38,000 actually voted in favour of the Human activity. Those who voted against it totalled most 24,000.’ Nor did the electoral rules add to its credibility. Peter Iverson has pointed out that ‘the practice of counting no vote at all as a vote in favour of the mensurate helped swing close elections, peculiarly on smaller reservations. The Santa Ysabel reservation in California was counted equally giving the Act a 71- 43 margin of approval, just but ix persons at that place actually voted for [the IRA].’

Moreover, Collier’s policies, through no error of his own, failed in the most crucial areas of all. The erosion of Indian land as a upshot of allotment had created a class of 100,000 landless Indians, adding to the problems of the reservations whose best land had been sold off since 1887. Few could become cocky-sustaining economically and Collier succeeded in calculation only four million acres to their land base. Furthermore, the annual budget of the BIA was not large plenty to cope with the demands of economic development for the reservations, let alone provide adequate educational and health facilities.

The Impact of the Second World War

The 2nd World War further damaged the Indian New Deal. The BIA part was moved from Washington to Chicago in 1942 and its budget was cut as federal resources were devoted to more urgent war-related activities. The reservations lost a farther million acres of land, including 400,000 acres for a gunnery range and some for the housing of Japanese-American internees.

The feel of war also transformed the lives and attitudes of many Native Americans. There were approximately 350,000 Native Americans in the U.s.a. in 1941, of whom 25,000 served in the armed forces. This was a higher proportion than from whatsoever other indigenous minority. Recent films take celebrated some of their best-known contributions. Clint Eastwood’s 2006 film
Flags of our Fathers
explored the tragic life of Ira Hayes, 1 of the men featured in the famous photo of half-dozen Marines raising the United states of america flag over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. The 2002 flick
dealt with a group of Navajo whose language provided the United states of america military with an indecipherable code.

A further 40,000 Native Americans worked in state of war-related industries. For many, this involved a permanent relocation to the cities and a willingness to assimilate into mainstream white culture. Collier himself recognised that the federal authorities would need to modify its Native American policy fundamentally as a outcome of the state of war. In 1941 he pointed out that, ‘with resources inadequate to see the needs of those already [on the reservations], the trouble of providing employment opportunities and a means of livelihood for each of the returning soldiers and workers will prove a staggering task’. The post-obit year he fifty-fifty hinted at a return to the policy of absorption. ‘Should economic conditions after the war proceed to offer employment opportunities in manufacture, many Indians volition undoubtedly choose to continue to work away from the reservations. Never earlier accept they been so well prepared to take their places among the full general citizenry and to become alloyed into the white population.’

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The Genesis of the Policy of Termination

The Second Globe War profoundly inverse the ideological climate in the U.s.a.. The nation had simply fought a major state of war to destroy ane collectivist credo – Nazism – and the onset of the Cold War in the tardily 1940s fabricated most Americans worried well-nigh the power and ambitions of another – Communism. Americans began stridently trumpeting the virtues of individual liberty against the collective ideology of the USSR. Collier’southward policies were regarded with intense suspicion, and the IRA came to be seen as a domestic version of socialism, or even communism. Many conservative Congressmen had never liked information technology because they believed that the autonomy information technology granted to Native American communities gave them special privileges. Furthermore, Collier’s policies seemed to perpetuate the status of Native Americans as wards of the federal government who would require continued supervision and economical support from the BIA, which, to conservative Congressmen, was an expensive and unnecessary hierarchy funded by white taxpayers. The IRA was also criticised past the National Council of Churches for the support it gave to Native American religions. In January 1945 Collier, worn downwardly by the growing hostility to his policies, resigned as Commissioner.

The notion that information technology was time to terminate the wardship condition of Native Americans and wind up federal responsibleness for their welfare became increasingly pop in Washington in the postwar years. This would mean that BIA could be abolished, the reservations broken up, Indian resources sold off and the profits divided among tribal members. Indians would become just like any other Americans – responsible as individuals for their ain destiny.

In this context, Collier’s critics could blame his policies, rather than inadequate federal funding, for the economic backwardness of the reservations. The IRA, by returning the state to communal ownership and making information technology inalienable, had limited the property rights of private Indians. In the words of historian Kenneth Philp, ‘this well-intentioned [IRA] policy threatened perpetual government supervision over many competent individuals, made it hard to secure loans from private sources, and discouraged Indians from developing their country resources’. Furthermore, the wartime migration of many Indians to the cities appeared to propose that what many Native Americans themselves wanted was participation in America’s booming postwar industrial economy rather than a life of rural squalor on the economically deprived reservations.

Relocation, 1948-61

In 1948 William Brophy, Collier’s successor as Commissioner, began a policy of relocating Indians – initially from two tribes – to the cities where the job opportunities were better than on the reservations. This programme was gradually expanded and past 1960 virtually 30 per cent of Native Americans lived in cities, as opposed to just viii per cent in 1940. Although the BIA provided some financial support and advice for relocating Indians, it reported every bit early equally 1953 that many Native Americans had ‘found the adjustment to new working and living weather condition more than hard than predictable’. Securing housing, coping with prejudice and even understanding the everyday features of urban life such equally traffic lights, lifts, telephones and clocks made the experience traumatic for many Indians. Not surprisingly, many suffered unemployment, slum living and alcoholism. Federal funding for the relocation project was never sufficient to assist Native Americans to cope with these problems, and many drifted dorsum to the reservations.

The Indian Claims Commission

The first step towards terminating the reservations came in 1946 when Congress, in part to reward Native Americans for their contribution to the war effort, prepare upwardly the Indian Claims Commission to hear Indian claims for any lands stolen from them since the creation of the United states of america in 1776. The Commission was initially supported past the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), a pressure group formed in 1944, because they welcomed a federal initiative to bargain with long-standing grievances. All the same, it was articulate that the Commission would provide only financial bounty and not return any land. The federal authorities regarded the Committee every bit the showtime stride to ‘getting out of the Indian business’. This was conspicuously how President Truman saw it: ‘With the final settlement of all outstanding claims which this measure ensures, Indians tin can take their place without special handicaps or special advantages in the economic life of our nation and share fully in its progress.’ The original intention was for the Commission to sit down for five years, but there were then many claims that it remained in being until 1978.

The Termination of the Reservations

In August 1953, Congress endorsed Firm Concurrent Resolution 108 which is widely regarded as the principal statement of the termination policy:

It is the policy of Congress, as speedily equally possible, to brand 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 condition every bit wards of the United States, and to grant them all the rights and prerogatives pertaining to American citizenship.

In the same month Congress passed Public Law 280 which, in California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon and Wisconsin, transferred criminal jurisdiction from the Indians to the state government, except on certain specified reservations. Congress also repealed the laws banning the sale of booze and guns to Indians. These measures could exist justified equally merely bringing Indians into line with other The states citizens but, as one historian has observed, ‘the states were not as eager to command the reservations every bit the advocates of termination had expected’. In some Indian areas law and society disappeared altogether.

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Many Native Americans were alarmed nearly the termination policy. One Blackfoot tribal chairman pointed out that, ‘in our language the just trans-lation for termination is to “wipe out” or “kill off”’. But in Washington, it was seen in terms of freedom and opportunity. Senator Arthur Watkins of Utah, the principal Congressional abet of termination, claimed in a 1957 commodity that it could be compared to the abolition of slavery: ‘Following in the footsteps of the Emancipation Proclamation of 94 years ago, I run into the post-obit words emblazoned in letters of burn down above the heads of the Indians – THESE PEOPLE SHALL BE FREE!’

These remarks were, of course, self-interested. Termination would open up upwardly even so more valuable Indian land and resources to white purchasers. This explains why, in the Congressional committee hearings on termination, there was considerable controversy over the futurity of the starting time reservations selected, especially those of the Menominee of Wisconsin and the Klamath of Oregon who had large land holdings and valuable forestry and timber resources.

Termination proved very hard to resist. Opponents who stressed the backwardness of the reservations and the disability of private Indians to cope without continued federal back up only confirmed the Congressmen in their confidence that the IRA had failed and that a new policy was necessary. Even the lack of acceptable facilities for Native Americans could be used equally testify that termination was necessary. When a Congressman from Texas tried to argue against the termination of the small reservation in his commune, he had to admit that the federally-maintained Indian school attended by the Native American children was over 500 miles from their homes, and that it fabricated more than sense for them to exist educated locally aslope white children.

The NCAI was as well in difficulties because many Native Americans favoured termination. These were mostly the half-blood Indians who had moved to the cities and, in many cases, adopted the values and lifestyles of the white majority. They stood to gain financially if the valuable land on their reservations was sold and the money divided amid tribal members. As Helen Peterson, a fellow member of the Oglala Sioux and a old director of the NCAI, later recalled:

In the NCAI office we did all nosotros could to back up, encourage, and support those people who dared to question termination, only it was pretty much a losing battle. The NCAI was in a tough spot. We were securely committed to respecting the sovereignty of a tribe. Did the NCAI want to oppose termination even when the people involved wanted information technology? We never really came to a final respond on that question.

The NCAI was able to forestall the termination of some tribes, including the Turtle Mountain Chippewa, but not the resource-rich Menominee and Klamath. Notwithstanding, the pace of termination slowed in the mid-1950s as it became clear that many Indians had not been properly consulted and few fully understood its implications. In 1958 the Secretary of the Interior, Fred Seaton, declared that ‘it is absolutely unthinkable … that consideration would exist given to forcing upon an Indian tribe a so-called termination plan which did not have the agreement and acceptance of a clear majority of the members afflicted’. In the 1960s the policy was abandoned.

Conclusion: the Touch on of Termination

Judged by numbers alone, the impact of termination was pocket-size. It affected simply over thirteen,000 out of a total Indian population of 400,000. Only about iii per cent of reservation state was lost. Only it caused huge anxiety amongst Native Americans and had the ironic result of stimulating the formation of the ‘Red Power’ protest move of the 1960s. It remains an emotive event amid historians sympathetic to Native Americans. Angie Debo called it ‘the most concerted bulldoze against Indian property and Indian survival’ since the 1830s. Jake Page concluded that it had been ‘an utter betrayal of trust responsibilities by the federal regime’, and Edward Valandra has claimed that ‘termination increasingly resembled extermination’. Nevertheless, it is difficult to run across what policy, in the context of the early on Cold War, could take replaced information technology. Even today, neither the Native American tribes themselves, nor the federal government, accept successfully resolved exactly what the status and identity of the original inhabitants of the due north American continent should be.

Bug to Contend

  • How successful was the Indian New Deal?
  • How important was the Second Earth War in transforming the lives and status of Native Americans?
  • Was the Termination policy just an excuse to plunder Native American state and resources?
  • How similar was the Native American struggle for their rights to the African American ceremonious rights entrada?

Further Reading

  • Angie Debo,
    History of the Indians of the United States
    (Norman, Oklahoma, 1970)
  • Albert L. Hurtado and Peter Iverson (eds.),
    Major Problems in American Indian History
    (Lexington, Mass, 1994)
  • Peter Iverson,
    ‘Nosotros Are Still Hither’: American Indians in the Twentieth Century
    (Wheeling, Illinois, 1998)
  • Jake Page,
    In the Hands of the Great Spirit:The xx,000-Year History of American Indians
    (NewYork, 2003)
  • Francis Paul Prucha,
    The Great Father:The U.s.a. Regime and the American Indians, Abridged Edition (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1986)
  • Francis Paul Prucha (ed),
    Documents of United States Indian Policy, tertiary Edition
    (Lincoln, Nebraska, 2000)
  • Edward Charles Valandra,
    Not Without Our Consent: Lakota Resistance to Termination, 1950-59 (Chicago, Illinois, 2006)

Andrew Boxer
was for many years Director of Studies and Head of History at Eastbourne College. He is an A-level examiner for OCR and the author of a number of textbooks on aspects of mod British and European history.

Why Was Federal Land Grant Legislation So Contentious

Source: https://www.historytoday.com/archive/feature/native-americans-and-federal-government