The Western American Indian: Case Studies in Tribal History

By Richard N. Ellis | Go to book overview

Termination

As William Zimmerman noted in a previous selection, the period after World War II was marked by a retreat from New Deal principles in Indian policy and a growing disinterest in the Indian people and their problems. Appropriations for the Bureau of Indian Affairs were reduced. Bureau responsibilities in the fields of health, education, and law were shifted to other federal and state agencies, and there was talk of abolishing the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Under congressional pressure the bureau instituted studies and drew up plans for the termination of federal responsibilities for the American Indians.

Although termination was implemented under the Eisenhower administration, plans for it were prepared during the Truman administration, indicating the bipartisan nature of the policy. In 1953 House Concurrent Resolution No. 108 was passed by Congress with almost no debate or opposition and established the policy of termination by ending the wardship status of American Indians and withdrawing federal responsibilities to the Indian people. Thereafter congressional forces, led by Senator Arthur V. Watkins of Utah, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Indian affairs and the driving force in the termination movement, secured the passage of legislation to apply the policy to specific tribes. In language reminiscent of that of reformers who supported the Dawes Act of 1887, Watkins described termination as a cure-all to the Indian problem and as a policy designed to aid the Indians. He talked of emancipation and freedom for the Indians and of granting them all the rights and prerogatives, of American citizenship; termination was, he said, "the Indian freedom program."

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