A brief rundown of the U. S. santioned indigenous nations termination policy and practice aka the 1950's:
The Termination era
The Termination Era
“In view of the historic policy of Congress favoring freedom for Indians…that as rapidly as possible we should end the status of Indians as wards of the Government and grant them all the rights and prerogatives pertaining to American citizenship…Following the footsteps of the Emancipation Proclamation of 94 years ago, I emblazon the letters of fire above the heads of the Indians—THESE PEOPLE SHALL BE FREE!”
Sen. Arthur Watkins, Utah
"Such are the words of demagogues in Lincoln's clothing."
John Wunder, Retained by the People, 1994
Just 15 years after the Indian Reorganization Act was passed, Congress decided to forego efforts to strengthen Indian sovereignty and tribal governments. In 1953, newly elected President Eisenhower carried with him majorities of both Houses of Congress. Fearful of big government, he proclaimed the nation must eternally guard against "excessive concentration of power in government." As the sentiment echoed in Congress, an extensive effort was undertaken to reduce Federal Government involvement in Indian affairs. Renewed assimilation policies were implemented. The effort was to terminate governmental responsibilities and again attempt to integrate Indians into the dominant society.
During this period, the Indian Claims Commission; the ending of prohibitions against selling liquor and firearms to Indians; the shifting of the Indian Health obligation from the BIA to the Department of Health and Human Services; and the shifting of Indian education to the states, were all efforts by the government to remove distinctions between Indians and non-Indians, thereby allowing a new direction in Indian policy. The federal government was about to get out of the Indian business.
The Indian Claims Commission had two distinct purposes: repay tribes for illegally taken lands but also to "clear the slate" of tribal claims against the federal government, thus expediting the new direction in Indian affairs. By the cut-off date for filing claims in 1952, tribes had filed 370 petitions and were ultimately awarded $800 million. However, the financial awards were based upon market value of the land at the time it was taken, generally no interest was paid, and, on average, awards were received 15 years after filing. Although settlements were to the disadvantage of the tribes, the Claims Commission was nonetheless a recognition by Congress that tribes were entitled to restitution for unfair taking of lands.
On September 29, 1965, the Indian Claims Commission determined in Docket Number 61 that the Salish and Kootenai Tribes had surrendered 12,005,000 acres to the government, which were worth $5,300,000 in 1859.
Postcript: Bigart, et.al. In the Name of the Salish & Kootenai Nation, 1996.
…Whereas the Indians within the territorial limits of the United States should assume their full responsibilities as American citizens: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate Concurring), That it is declared to be the sense of Congress that, at the earliest possible time, all of the Indian tribes and the individual members thereof located within the States of California, Florida, New York, and Texas, and all of the following named tribes and individual members thereof, should be freed from Federal supervision and control and from all disabilities and limitations specially applicable to Indians: The Flathead Tribe of Montana, the Klamath Tribe of Oregon, the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, the Potowatami Tribes of Kansas and Nebraska, and the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe of North Dakota.
For more than one hundred groups involved, over 10,000 Indians, termination meant the end of the federal government’s trust relationship with Indian people and their tribes--all federal protection and aid ended. It also meant state jurisdiction was imposed on all activities, including criminal and civil authority. Termination became yet another land grab, as well. Over 1.3 million acres of reservation lands were sold, with the proceeds going to the tribes. Tribes, of course, could not be deprived of their inherent sovereignty, but termination virtually ended its practice.
The strongest proponent of termination was Senator Arthur Watkins (R) of Utah. An old-guard conservative and devout Mormon, Watkins believed everyone should achieve their goals without government assistance, regardless of circumstances. He felt Indians had it too easy and federal services must be eliminated to place the Indian on the same competitive basis as other Americans. He complained, "they want all the benefits that civilization furnished, but they don't want to help pay their share of it."
Watkins’ position as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Indian Affairs gave him tremendous leverage in determining this new direction of federal Indian policy. His most important achievement was the passage of HCR 108 in 1953, titled, Termination of Federal Supervision: As only a statement of policy, the resolution itself terminated nothing. That was accomplished one tribe at a time through subcommittee hearings, followed by specific legislation. Tribal consent was not required. Curiously, the resolution was given little attention because of the Korean conflict, desegregation issues, and McCarthyism; it passed almost without comment.
Although HCR 108 was bitterly opposed by most tribes, in all fairness, some Native Americans personally desired withdrawal of federal supervision, claiming wardship hindered their individual progress in business and they desired to live as non-Indians lived.
Tribes chosen for termination were presumably those determined to have sufficient economic prosperity to sustain themselves. On the Flathead, for example, 9/10ths of tribal members were considered to be fully self-supporting. However, the first termination bill debated by the Senate took place in Watkins subcommittee and involved six small bands of Paiutes and Shoshonis in his own state of Utah. They were not mentioned in Resolution 108, but Watkins, consistently arrogant and disrespectful towards the Indians, wanted them terminated anyway; it was his way of assuring he was not picking on other states. Even so, many terminations became an act of convenience or spite. Tribal governments that tried to resist were labeled "communistic." For the tribes involved, termination meant catastrophe.
In keeping with Senate bill 2750 and House Resolution 7319, the Flatheads were selected and summoned before the joint subcommittee on interior and insular affairs, in February, 1954. Those in attendance included D’Arcy McNickle, Chairman Walter McDonald and Vice Chairman Walter Morigeau, Russ Gardipe, Land Clerk, and Steve DeMere, tribal member. Their testimony as well as statements from the Flathead Irrigation Project, the Ursuline Nuns, and others, powerfully communicated their objection to termination. On the other hand, several tribal members, as well as Lulu Charrier, a non-Indian, testified that the tribal council had not presented the true sentiments of all tribal members and favored termination. The strong objections to termination, however, encouraged Senator James Murray, Democrat of Montana, to prevent House and Senate bills from leaving their respective committees, and the Congressional legislation for termination of the Flathead was never passed.
That was not the case for the Menominee of Wisconsin. They were formally terminated in April of 1961. Senator Watkins assured the Menominee they possessed the confidence and ability to take care of themselves and should demand independence because "only then can you develop as God intended you to develop." The new Menominee County, with the loss of federal funding and necessary tax base to provide for services, soon became the poorest in the state. In the early 1970’s, however, the Menominee found a friend in President Richard Nixon who publicly voiced objection to termination. Subsequently, legislation was passed to restore their status as a federally recognized tribe.
"In return [for being terminated], individual tribal members received a check for the value of their land. In most instances, the payments amounted to little, although the withdrawing Klamaths received payment of $43,000 in 1961. The check did not compensate for the loss of federal benefits or the new tax burdens. It could not pay for the loss of tribal governmental authority, or compensate for the discrimination that followed in the state agencies and courts. Perhaps most tragic of all, the check could not possibly pay for the psychological costs of "not being an Indian any more."
Reprinted from Federal Indian Law, Getches and Wilkinson, 2nd Ed., 1998, with permission of the West Group.
Many tribes saw their sovereignty greatly diminished during the termination era even though they were never terminated. Legislatively, the most damage was done with P.L. 280, which extended significant state jurisdiction into Indian Country. President Eisenhower signed the bill into law in August 1953, stating, "although I have grave doubts as to the wisdom of certain provisions of (P.L. 280), I have today signed it because its basic purpose represents still another step in granting equality to all Indians in our nation."
Six states were formally delegated jurisdiction over most crimes and many civil matters on reservations within their borders. Ten more states opted to amend their laws to extend into Indian Country, including Montana--over criminal offenses on the Flathead reservation. (At the time, the Salish and Kootenai simply had too few resources to continue those responsibilities and initially agreed to the state’s intervention.)
P.L. 280, however, suddenly placed a heavy burden on several states that found a lack of sufficient resources to assume the added responsibility. Relief was provided in later legislation allowing delegated states to return some or all of their jurisdiction back to the federal government.
In 1968, Public Law 280 was amended (by the Indian Civil Rights Act) to require tribal consent by referendum vote in all future cases but no tribes have consented since. The 1968 amendment also permitted states to retrocede criminal or civil jurisdiction, acquired under P.L. 280, back to the tribes. In 1993, the state of Montana and the Flathead Nation negotiated a partial retrocession (Senate Bill 368), which allowed the tribes to resume exclusive criminal misdemeanor jurisdictions over Indians on the reservation.
In keeping with the spirit of termination, relocation was an effort to provide livelihoods for Indians in urban centers. For one month Indians received assistance, a job, and a place to live, then they were on their own. The program began with the Navajo then extended to other tribes. Many tribal members volunteered for the program to escape the deplorable conditions on reservations or were attracted by the promise of a better life in the big cities. Although some were successful in the transition, most found themselves undereducated, isolated and at the bottom of the social order. The Chicago relocation office reported in 1957 the average pay for a male was $66 per month. The urban experience largely created Indian ghettos, exchanging rural poverty on reservations, for urban slums. By 1957, 17,000 Indians had received relocation assistance.
The relocation experience was expressed by a Social Services Director in Minneapolis, "...everybody who comes to the city has a dream of making it...about improving their lives. But then prejudice slaps them in the face and they're worse off. Call it culture shock. When your bubble is burst, there's nothing left but to go back home and start dreaming again."
To their credit, many tribal people ventured successfully to major urban centers during this time even without relocation assistance. Though successful, many still sought comfort in tribal identity and traditions left behind by creating urban cultural centers which are still thriving today.
In the early 1950's, the Flathead tribal Council passed an ordinance limiting quantum for membership to 1/4 Salish and/or Kootenai blood. The BIA argued such a restriction must be decided by all members of the tribes and recommended a referendum vote. An article in the Char-Koosta outlining the change stated, "its purpose is not to remove people from the roles, but to help those already on..." The referendum vote took place in late 1959 and passed by a solid majority.
The Flathead Nation Constitution was amended (Amendment II) such that those born after April 1, 1960 would require at least 1/4 Salish and/or Kootenai blood to be eligible for membership. Controversy has understandably developed over this amendment as membership, and therefore access to tribal resources, may differ within the same family.
Tribes, as sovereign entities, have control over criteria for membership and can retain or change them at any time. Additionally, the courts have ruled the federal government can also use any reasonable method to determine tribal membership for federal purposes.
Perhaps the most disgraceful abuse of Congressional plenary power was finally repudiated in a single sentence, buried within the Tribally Controlled Schools Act of 1988: The Congress hereby repudiates and rejects House Concurrent Resolution 108 of the 83rd Congress and any policy of unilateral termination of Federal relations with any Indian Nation. April 28, 1988. 25 U.S.C. § 5203 part (f).