Oklahoma's Indian New Deal

By Watson, Blake A. | The Journal of Southern History, August 2014 | Go to article overview

Oklahoma's Indian New Deal


Watson, Blake A., The Journal of Southern History


Oklahoma's Indian New Deal. By Jon S. Blackman. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013. Pp. [x], 225. Paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8061-4351-4.)

Why were Oklahoma Indians exempted from most provisions of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act (IRA)? And why did Congress change its mind two years later and pass the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act (OIWA)? Oklahoma's Indian New Deal offers answers to these questions and examines the impact of the OIWA on the tribes and native peoples inhabiting Oklahoma. Jon S. Blackman provides historical context for the legislation of the so-called Indian New Deal and for the subsequent "Oklahoma's Newer New Deal" offered to the state's Indians (p. 90). In his view, the OIWA "fell short of intended objectives" but should nonetheless "be credited with a positive impact on Oklahoma Indians" (p. 147).

Chapters 1 and 2 provide an overview of the removal of eastern and southern tribes to Indian Territory and the ensuing struggle between native groups and non-Indians over land and resources. During the four decades before the Indian Reorganization Act, tribal governments were dissolved, the tribal land base was reduced by 90 percent, and "Oklahoma Indians experienced a level of exploitation by whites unmatched by any other tribal group in the nation" (p. 32). The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl exacerbated problems of poverty, poor health, and lack of education.

The central chapters of the book describe the events leading up to the passage of the IRA and the OIWA. As Blackman notes in chapter 3, the Indian New Deal had four basic objectives: "rebuilding Indian tribal societies, enlarging and rehabilitating Indian landholdings, fostering Indian self-government, and preserving and promoting Indian culture" (p. …

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