Indian leader, George Gillette, breaks down during the 'taking ceremony' of Indian lands in Congress in 1949.
Just ten years after the passage of the
Indian Reorganization Act, a landmark piece of legislation
promising Indian tribes a bright new future with cooperation with
the federal government (sponsored by John Collier in the Roosevelt
administration), the U.S. Congress passed a series of laws,
including most famously the Flood Control Act of 1944, The
Termination Act, and the Indian Relocation Act, which would usher
in the Third Removal Era for Native Americans.
Each of these laws would turn Federal
Indian policy back to the early 19th Century and the genocidal
policies of Andrew Jackson's administration by forcibly taking
treaty protected homelands of western tribes by means of
eminent domain, by seeking to terminate the federal trust
relationship with tribes (the Termination Act), and by attempting
once again to force Indians into assimilation with the non-native
culture by removing them from their home reservations and
relocating them to urban centers around the country where it was
hoped - by white administrators - that Indians would 'assimilate'
into the mainstream culture.
All three initiatives had a
devastating impact, particularly on tribes in the West. The
Flood Control Act of 1944 ushered in an era of dam building on
major western rivers, such as the Missouri, which inevitably
flooded Indians out of their homelands. Twenty-three tribes
were forced to give up lands which were guaranteed to them 'in
perpetuity' in 19th century treaties ratified by the U.S.
Senate. In almost every case, courts later ruled that the
takings by Congress were unconstitutional and violated the federal
trust relationship with the tribes. Nevertheless, efforts by
white politicians to remove Indians from their lands continued
right through the Reagan administration, in the 1980s, when
Secretary of the Interior James Watt recommended that all treaty
tribes with known mineral reserves be forced off their reservations
and relocated to urban centers where they would be 'assimilated'
into the non-native world.
The consequences of the Third
Removal Era are still being felt today in many Native American
tribes, where the loss of the land base, language, and religion
have had devastating consequences.