1944 - Third Indian Removal Era

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.