American Indian Policy

Federal Indian policy during the Eisenhower Administration was dominated by two concepts—termination and relocation. Termination referred to the ending of federal controls, restrictions, and benefits for Indians under federal jurisdiction. Indian reservations would no longer be protected areas, legal recognition of tribal governments would end, and special benefits in the areas of health, welfare, and education would be discontinued. The first major legislation on this subject during the Eisenhower presidency was House Concurrent Resolution 108, which was passed in July 1953. It stated that the policy of Congress was to make Indians subject to the same laws and entitled to the same privileges and responsibilities as all other American citizens and to free all tribes from federal supervision and control.

Relocation involved encouraging Indians to move to industrial urban areas away from their reservations. The Bureau of Indian Affairs would line up jobs and housing and provide financial assistance to those willing to try life away from the reservation. Another aspect of relocation involved the displacement of some tribes by major federal dam and reservoir projects, such as the Fort Randall Dam in South Dakota and the Kinzua Dam on the border of Pennsylvania and New York. “The BIA sought to assist them in relocating and re-establishing themselves.

Both termination and relocation were aimed at assimilating Native Americans into middle-class, mainstream American society. Both policies were criticized for their failure to take into account the importance of the cultural integrity of the Indian tribes and the social and psychological problems which resulted when Indians were separated from their traditional communal society.