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Indian Reorganization Act

INDIAN REORGANIZATION ACT

INDIAN REORGANIZATION ACT. The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934 represented a shift in U.S. Indian policy away from forced acculturation and assimilation. In 1928 the government-sponsored Meriam Report had documented problems of poverty, ill health, and despair on many reservations and recommended reforms in Bureau of Indian Affairs administration, including ending allotment and the phasing out of boarding schools. In 1933 the new administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt named John Collier, a former New York City social worker, to be commissioner of Indian affairs. Disillusioned with the materialistic and individualistic nature of industrial society, Collier proposed an Indian New Deal that would help preserve Native cultures and provide tribes with greater powers of self-government.

The IRA was the center of Collier's reform agenda. The act repudiated the Dawes General Allotment Act, barred further allotment, and set aside funds to consolidate and restore tribal landholdings. The IRA also provided for job training and vocational education and stipulated that Indians could gain employment in the BIA without recourse to civil service regulations. Finally, the act also allowed tribes to establish business councils with limited powers of home rule to enable them to develop reservation resources. A provision in Collier's original proposal to establish a special court of Indian affairs was rejected by Congress. Tribes were given the option of accepting or rejecting the IRA by referendum.

Despite Collier's rhetoric of self-determination, tribes felt pressured to accept the IRA just as they had felt pressed to accept previous government policies. Boiler-plate BIA home rule charters showed little sensitivity to the diversity of Native life, and attempted to impose a one-size-fits-all solution to Indian problems. IRA referendums and majority rule tribal councils also ignored the consensus-driven traditions that persisted in many communities. The IRA attracted opposition from advocates of both assimilation and traditionalism, both inside and outside Indian communities. Ultimately, 174 tribes voted to accept the IRA and 78 tribes, including the Crow, Navajo, and Seneca, rejected it.

Despite its flaws and limitations, the IRA did represent a new recognition of Indian rights and culture. Although many of Collier's policies were altered in subsequent decades, both as a result of government-sponsored programs to terminate federal services to Indians and as a result of indigenous demands for greater sovereignty, the IRA and IRA-created governments remain influential in shaping U.S. Indian policy.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Biolsi, Thomas. Organizing the Lakota: The Political Economy of the New Deal on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992.

Deloria, Vine, Jr., and Clifford M. Lytle. The Nations Within: The Past and Future of American Indian Sovereignty. New York: Pantheon, 1984.

Kelly, Lawrence C. The Assault on Assimilation: John Collier and the Origins of Indian Policy Reform. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1983.

Taylor, Graham D. The New Deal and American Indian Tribalism: The Administration of the Indian Reorganization Act, 1934–1945. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1980.

FrankRzeczkowski

See alsoBureau of Indian Affairs ; Dawes General Allotment Act .

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Indian Reorganization Act

Indian Reorganization Act, legislation passed in 1934 in the United States in an attempt to secure new rights for Native Americans on reservations. Its main provisions were to restore to Native Americans management of their assets (mostly land); to prevent further depletion of reservation resources; to build a sound economic foundation for the people of the reservations; and to return to the Native Americans local self-government on a tribal basis. The objectives of the bill were vigorously pursued until the outbreak of World War II. Although the act is still in effect, many Native Americans question its supposed purpose of gradual assimilation; their opposition reflects their efforts to reduce federal condescension in the treatment of Native Americans and their cultures.

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"Indian Reorganization Act." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Indian Reorganization Act." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved July 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/indian-reorganization-act