Lewis 2008, Termination of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Chapter 4

Lewis, David, Termination of the Confederated tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon, Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, Dissertation, 2008. (Pre-final draft 2007)

Chapter 4

United States Indian Policy, 1847-1950

 

Chapter Outline

This chapter reveals many of the Indian laws and policies which managed tribal rights in the 19th and 20th centuries. Particularly important are those laws and policies which impacted tribal rights to land and the government’s program of assimilation. These are the most significant issues which were the objective of termination.

Introduction

The management of Indians, of the people and the tribes they are associated with, was controlled through the creation of a series of laws and policies, which managed and controlled the natives’ traditional resources and the rights to use those resources.[1] Through the management of Indian lands, the United States Government controlled the people and tribes who depended on the lands for their livelihood. Since the earliest colonization and settlement of the Americas, government management of indigenous lands was different for each European government and for each era.

This chapter presents United States Indian land management in perhaps the most contentious era, from the mid-nineteenth century into the mid-twentieth century. The changing United States political environment also changed United States Indian policies: Indians gained some rights and support for maintaining their tribal structures in some decades, only to have many of those rights taken away in following decades when intensive assimilation policies were implemented. The programs of disenfranchisement of Indians from their aboriginal lands and assimilation of Indians into American society were maintained throughout this period despite political policy changes. And finally at a time when tribes had gained many of the rights they needed to make progress, Congress, led by Senator Arthur Watkins, and later by Commissioner of Indian Affairs Dillon Myer, to plan and implement its most drastic act, termination (Senese 1991:9, 17).

An example of federal Indian policy changes for Indians in Oregon was in the 1850s the United States made treaties with confederations of western Oregon tribes. In western Oregon over twenty-seven tribes[2] were consolidated on two reservations.  This stands in contrast to previous decades, where treaties with eastern tribes involved individual tribes who were removed to individual reservations. One of the reasons for this change in Oregon was the need to preserve as much land as possible for the immigrant settlers (Beckham 1977; 2006).[3] This was not a concern of the United States until they reached a limit to expansion, the Pacific Ocean, and there were few other places westward to expand.[4]  In following decades, the U.S. government implemented on-reservation and off- reservation boarding schools in order to assimilate Indian children into American society.

Tribal populations on reservations reached an all-time low in the 1890s, and many social scientists predicted the extinction of the American Indian (Boyd 1999; Cole 1985).[5] Within this era we see a resurgence of power and the formation of American Indian political organizations such as the Society of American Indians formed in 1911 (Nabokov 1999). Along with this resurgence came scientific activist politicians, such as John Collier, who eventually became the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1933. During the 1920s – 1940s Congress began to question the direction of Indian policy and initiated several investigations, which created new Indian policy.  Collier’s leadership in defensive of Indian tribes in the 1920s led to his appointment to Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1933. Collier then began writing Indian policy in a series of congressional acts, collectively labeled the Indian New Deal.[6]

The Tribal Nations lost millions of acres through the introduction of assimilation concepts that promoted the individual ownership of land. Before this era, Indian lands on reservations were owned in-common by tribes, and could not be sold off piece-meal. With individual ownership, the federal government removed many of the safeguards on Indian land and allowed the former reservation lands to be sold into the public ownership. By the 1910s, many of the original Indian allottees had passed away, and the government investigated the disposition and the potential heirs of the allotted lands. Then in 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) was passed, the process of allotment again became part of federal Indian policy.[7] At that time, tribes regained many of the rights of self-governance that were removed through federal management policies pertaining to Indians. Yet even with the proactive changes of the mid twentieth century, the United States government decided that all previous actions had impoverished Indians; those who had been assimilated into American society had to be freed from United States management through liquidation or termination.[8]

Indian Land Title

United States land ownership laws are built upon and mimic European land laws meant to prevent encroachment on neighbor’s lands. This concept is called “the right of occupation.” European public authorities in the Americas respected the rights of the tribes to their lands and negotiated with the tribes to occupy their new settlements. As the colonies expanded and encroached on each other’s land a claim, a new concept was used, “the right of prior discovery.” Land title then changes from “use and occupation” to a “fee” status. Tribal land rights were characterized as “mere use and occupation” as tribal administration of lands diminished through European purchase and conquest. Therefore the contemporary belief, and that which ruled Indian policy through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, is a diminished aboriginal right to exercise sovereign rights to long occupied lands. This diminishment of Indian sovereignty was aided in large part by the arrogant belief that Indians are “incompetent” to hold and control land. This is based on the older belief that since Indians are not Christians, they are “infidels, barbarous, uncivilized, savages” (Task Force Three and Commission 1976:21-22).

The U.S. Court system has codified the latter belief in the 1810 holding “that the nature of Indian title, which is certainly to be respected by all courts, until it is legitimately extinguished, is not such as to be absolutely repugnant to seisin in fee on the part of the State” (Task Force Three and Commission 1976:22).[9] Later the Supreme Court described Indian title thus:

In the establishment of these relations, the rights of the original inhabitants were, in no instance, entirely disregarded; but were, necessarily, to a considerable extent, impaired. They were admitted to be the rightful occupants of the soil, with legal as well as just claim to retain possession of it, and the use of it according to their own discretion; but their rights to complete sovereignty as independent nations, were necessarily diminished. While the different nations of Europe respected the right of the natives, as occupants, they asserted the ultimate dominion, a power to grant the soil, while yet in possession of the natives. These grants have been understood by all to convey a title to the grantees, subject only to the Indian right of occupancy.

 

The United States, then, have unequivocally acceded to that great and broad rule by which its civilized inhabitants now hold title by which it was acquired. They maintain, as all others have maintained, that discovery gave an exclusive right to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy… to give also a right to such a degree of sovereignty as the circumstances of the people would allow them to exercise… The power now possessed by the government of the United States to grant lands, resided, while we were colonies, in the Crown of its grantees. The validity of  title given by either has never been questioned by our courts, it has been exercised uniformly over existence of any right which may conflict with and control it. An absolute title to lands cannot exist, at the same time, in different persons, or in different governments. An absolute, must be an exclusive title, or at least a title which excludes all others not compatible with it (Task Force Three and Commission 1976:22-23).

 

The Supreme Court’s decision only partially recognized Indian land title and further codified in U.S. law the diminishment of Indian rights. Full possessory rights to land could be secured by the United States if Congress passed legislation terminating Indian tribes. The question of Indian consent to termination was brought up by Congressmen and President Eisenhower, and a process was created of consultation with tribes with an intention to gain their consent. However, the question of how Congress measured consent for termination remains to be answered fully. The final means of acquiring Indian land was by purchase.

Plenary Power of Congress

In Worcester v. Georgia, Chief Justice Marshall confirmed the plenary power of Congress over Indian laws within the United States as stipulated by the Constitution. Congress holds sole power over making treaties with Indian tribes, to govern their commerce and manage the relationship between the United States and the tribes.  Treaty rights to tribes may be abrogated if Congress shows a “clear and plain” intent to do so.

Land Ownership Legislation

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,, significant legislation addressing Indian land ownership was passed. These acts included the Dawes Allotment Act (1887) and the Indian Reorganization Act (1934). Additional legislation addressed Indian nationality with the Indian Citizenship Act (ICA) (1924) establishing the principle that all Indians were citizens of the United States and deserving of all of the rights of Americans. The ICA established the general principle that “Indians can have three separate sets of rights, federal, tribal and state.”[10] All three acts sought to alter Native identity, to disassociate Natives from their claims to sovereignty, and to assimilate Native peoples into American society. Despite the intentions of the legislators, many Native peoples did not easily assimilate, and within some states (examples: Arizona, Oregon)[11] they were not allowed the complete rights of other Americans. In Arizona native peoples were not allowed to claim Social Security and in Oregon native people could not legally marry whites, nor purchase alcohol (McKay 1950).

Dawes Act, 1887

The Dawes Severalty Act (1887) changed tribal structure and rights on reservations more dramatically than any other piece of legislation.[12] The Dawes Act altered Native people’s relationships with all other peoples in America. The act served to created internal and external fractures between Tribal families and between Tribal kinships. As well, the act immediately impoverished hundreds of thousands of Native people, first those who did not have the requisite blood quantum (one-half Indian blood) and second, successive generations of descendant populations who married outside of their “race” and as such could not acquire an allotment. Eventually, blood quantum issues would become indivisible from Tribal citizenship rights across Indian Country.[13]

Of the Dawes Act, Wilcomb Washburn states:

The Act did not simply rearrange the landholding system of the Indians. It dealt, sometimes only in a tentative or partial way with all aspects of the relationship between white men and red: it determined how much land the red man would retain and how much the white man would acquire; it determined whether past treaties would be honored or violated; it determined how much authority the tribe would retain and how much the Indian individual would acquire; it determined what type of law the Indian would be subjected to; and it determined whether or not he would become an American citizen or remain an alien in his own country (Washburn 1975:3).

 

Furthermore, Washburn expands upon his analysis and connects the Dawes Act to the federal assimilation policies for Indians:

…the Dawes Severalty Act, which resulted in an enormous loss of the Indian land base, was … justified by the philanthropic Senator Dawes and others in the 1880’s as the way to provide full economic opportunity for the Indian, and to accustom him to white economic values of self-interest, selfishness, and the like (Washburn 1995:155).

 

 

The Dawes Act was applied to most tribes and allowed the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to parcel reservation lands into individual plots of 40-160 acres and to sell the surplus lands. Proceeds from the surplus sales were supposed to pay for the education and civilization of the tribes. Allotted lands were held by the government for twenty-five years, after which the government would issue a fee patent to the allottee or his heirs. Allottees were to become citizens of the United States

The Dawes Act was presented to Congress as a way to help Indians to assimilate into American society. The Reverend Dr. Lyman Abbott lobbied Senator Dawes in favor of the act, saying:

…barbarism has no rights which civilization is bound to respect… our first duty to the Indians is to give them the benefit of that civilization which we enjoy. They are in fact part of our commonwealth, subject to our authority, amenable to our law. They are no longer a foreign people and cannot be treated as such…. We reply that such treaty obligations themselves violate the superior law of civilization, that a treaty which devotes a land to idleness and a people to barbarism cannot stand (Washburn 1975:16)..

 

Abbott neatly states that it is the responsibility of the United States to civilize the Indians, to remove them from their lands, and to place the matter in the hands of people who would not allow the land to sit in idleness.

As part of the allotment process, the Bureau of Indian Affairs initiated a series of genealogical heirship investigations in the 1910s. By this time, a number of the original Dawes allottees had passed away, and many of their family members remained living on the allotments. The BIA collected affidavits from people and relatives of those who had passed on, attempting to find all descendants of the allottees who could claim a portion of the allotments. In Oregon, many of the allottees had 10 or more descendants, and the BIA assigned them equal shares. However, in an overwhelming number of cases the BIA simply sold the land and gave the proceeds to the inheritors, not allowing them to inherit the property. In this manner, thousands of acres of previously allotted lands passed into white ownership.[14]

Nationally, by 1934 tribal landholdings were 48 million acres from the original of 138 million acres. By 1940 two thirds of all tribal lands passed into white ownership some 60 million acres, the rest owned by the state and federal governments, and only 2.3 percent of the country’s total landmass was in Tribal ownership (Deloria 1985; Washburn 1995:145).

Wheeler-Howard Act, 1934

The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) or also called the Wheeler-Howard Act of June 18th 1934 sought to transfer the responsibility for the management of an individual tribe’s affairs to the tribes themselves. The act was meant to help preserve the culture and life-ways of the tribes.  It allowed tribes to get federal loans, purchase new lands, and confirm Indian self-government. It also allowed the establishment of tribal businesses as federal corporations. John Collier was the main supporter for IRA and wanted to eliminate the process of breaking up tribal landholdings, which was initiated by the Dawes Allotment Act. Criticized for not giving full control of the tribal government to the tribes, IRA contains language that authorizes only the Secretary of the Interior to make final decisions over land usage, expenditures, and membership. “If the BIA disagrees with a tribal council’s decision on property or expenditures, the Bureau can overturn it” (Deloria 1985). However, the Wheeler-Howard Act is likely the most significant act on behalf of Indian communities of the twentieth century.[15]

Unlike previous legislation concerning native peoples and previous Commissioners of Indian Affairs, John Collier sought approval from the Tribal Nations for his proposed changes to Indian policy. Collier had been an ardent defender of Indian rights for nearly a quarter century, since the 1910s. Collier believed that the best course for the governance of Indians was to allow them rights in that governance. Because of his ethics, Collier engaged in a national campaign to convince the tribes of the value of the Wheeler-Howard Act. The discourse over passage of the Wheeler-Howard Act was contentious. Commissioner Collier knew the bill was not widely accepted by the tribes, and held a series of conferences with tribes across the nation.

March 8 and 9, 1934, the BIA held such a conference with the Northwest Indian Congress at Chemawa, Oregon.  During this conference, members of Commissioner Collier’s staff presented summary details of the IRA’s impact on the tribes. Staff members also answered many of the rumors and misinterpretations, and held a dialogue of criticisms of the act.

The Indian tribes present represented some twenty Indian communities in the Northwest.   During the conference, at least twenty languages were spoken, and many of the Indians did not understand or speak English at all. Some of the most prominent managers and scholars of twentieth century Indian affairs represented the U.S. government: William Zimmerman, the Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs under the Collier and Brophy administrations; Dr. Henry Roe Cloud of the Winnebago-Superintendent Haskell Indian School; and Felix S. Cohen, (Associate Solicitor Department of the Interior and author of The Handbook of Federal Indian Law (1942) along with other government employees.

The BIA argument, used to convince the Indian delegates that the Wheeler Howard Act was desirable legislation, was that in forty-seven years the Dawes Allotment Act had caused Indian communities to lose all but 47 million acres of the original 138 million acres of land held by Indians in 1887. The BIA representative John Marshall stated that tribes that had kept and managed their lands together in large blocks, like the Menominee, had been able to develop and manage their resources successfully.

Tribes that had allowed their reservations to be completely allotted to individuals had several issues.  From the original 160 acres allotted there were now in some cases hundreds of descendants making it impossible for them all to make a living off the allotment.[16] As a result these descendancy issues caused an incredible economic and bureaucratic nightmare when leasing the land out, because of the time and expenses necessary to gather the requisite signatures. Because of the bureaucracy around Indian land allotment policies the descendants chose to sell the land for whatever they could get for it.

Later in the conference William Zimmerman, Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs, summarized the main points of the IRA:

First, the further sale or loss of lands, of Indian lands, must be stopped. Second, land must be procured in order to take care of the Indians who have lost all of their land. New land must also be procured to supplement the land that is poor. Third, we may say what we want about the bad results of the allotment system, but the fact is, that the allotment system had created (valid and rightful) property rights and those rights must be protected. As a result of the allotment act, thousands of Indians live or are owners of individual parcels of land. They own that land. It is their right not only to continue to own but they have the right to transmit, to pass on that they own to their children. This right should not be taken away from them. Therefore, in addition to stopping the loss of land and getting more land, any change in the law must protect these individual property rights of living allottees (Bureau of Indian Affairs 1934:12).

 

Felix S. Cohen explained to the Indian delegation that the act would do these things:

 

In the first place, an Indian community can, if it wants, have the powers of a village or a county. It can elect its own officials and have its own code of ordinances. In the second place, a community may be given power in its charter to do the ordinary things that a business corporation does….In the third place, this charter will give the Indian community the right to do many things that the Office of Indian Affairs now does. Once a charter has been made and given to a community, and this applies to all communities, Congress can’t spend your funds without your consent (Bureau of Indian Affairs 1934:31).

 

The Wheeler-Howard Act did more to return to the Tribes rights of self-governance that any other piece of legislation in the history of Federal Indian policy. However, Collier’s attempt to help the Indians was only a slight change in an overwhelmingly disastrous body of Federal Indian Policy. In fact, some of his projects, such as the Ten-Year Plans of 1944, and the policy of self-sufficiency, actually supported political plans of Congress for the liquidation or termination of Tribal reservations.

Assimilation

When Indian tribes, were removed to the reservations, tribal members were subjected to United States policies of assimilation. Despite the earlier statements of the U.S. Congress to hold “utmost good faith” in regards to the Indians, in reality, the opposite situation occurred as the executive branch of the United States government exercised a consistent policy of “forced assimilation of Indian populations, diminishment of tribal land base and exploitation of Indian rights and property”(Task Force Three and Commission 1976:7). Assimilation and termination are the “…most destructive policies of the United States towards Indians…”  both of which are aimed at the “…destruction of the tribal community and the transfer of Indian Lands and resources from Indian control to non-Indian ownership” (Task Force Three and Commission 1976:7). These acts join all other acts of the federal government as focused on the same result “at the elimination of Indians, their culture and their property” (Task Force Three and Commission 1976:7). Following the Wheeler-Howard Act, Congress began to formulate a new direction for Indian policy: liquidation of the reservations and termination of any special status reserved for tribal nations.

Assimilation 1940s-1950s

 

During the 1930s and 40s, despite the many progressive actions began by the Office of Indian Affairs Commissioner John Collier, there was a piecemeal reduction of programs which supported Indians.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs was engaged in not only a political program of liquidation of the reservations, but also a program of inculcating assimilationist ideology into the education staff and Indian students.

During this period, the BIA education division operated many Indian day and boarding schools and employed several hundred teachers throughout the United States even though reductions had been made by John Collier in the previous decade. Under Collier the BIA began publishing a journal titled Indian Education which featured articles advocating for a curriculum of assimilation.[17]  The articles offered arguments for the continual assimilation of the students with an understanding that termination was surely in their future. The BIA Education Division employed several anthropologists, one of them Ruth Underhill, who wrote articles for the journal. Underhill was an accomplished anthropologist and many of her articles concerned issues of assimilation, culture, race, and the need to increase acculturation of the Indian students, the student’s need to compete with Americans, and reports of upcoming changes in the Indian management policies.

The following are quotes from issues of Indian Education. The articles emphasized justifications for assimilation for the Indian students:

Indian Service, therefore is a unified service, the objective of which is to prepare the Indian as rapidly as possible for the effective operation of his own resources and to make him a healthy, successful, participating citizen in the American nation. All divisions of the Indian Service exist to make their contribution toward the fulfilling of these simple objectives… (Anonymous 1943:2).

 

The previous statement is well connected to Captain Richard H. Pratt’s original philosophy behind Indian Boarding Schools of “kill the Indian and save the man” by working toward a goal to complete assimilation into American society (Garrett 1892:46–59; Pratt 1973:260–271):

A good deal has been said over the last few years about the segregation of Indians. By segregation is meant keeping Indians from associating with, and ultimately merging with, the rest of the population. It is asserted by advocates of amalgamation that the Indian Service is maintaining “The reservation system” in an effort to perpetuate segregation as a justification for prolonging the Indian Service. It is often argued that we should turn the Indians back over to the states, where they belong (Anonymous 1947:1).

 

This statement represents the new Congressional definition of freedom to the Indians. The fact that reservations were being recognized as a form of segregation provides a new understanding of the effect of the reservation system. However, the segregation of Indians is not the same as that of other ethnic groups, since reservations provided some support for preservation of traditional Indian culture. In addition, the argument of segregation would provide the foundation of the following argument for “freedom” of the Indians. These arguments cast the BIA in the category of segregationists and oppressors, which was suggested by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1945 (Affairs and Representatives 1945). Thereafter, the argument justifying termination became “freeing” for Indians from continued BIA oppression.

Contemporary with the Indian Education articles, and following the dismantling of the John Collier administration at the BIA, the U.S. Congress began discussing changes for Indian education policy. The following passage represents a change in the policy of the government to educate towards assimilation rather than tribalism:

The goal of Indian education should be to make the Indian child a better American rather than to equip him simply to be a better Indian. The goal of our whole Indian program should be, in the opinion of your committee, to develop better Indian Americans rather than to perpetuate and develop better American Indians. The present Indian education program tends to operate too much in the direction of perpetuating the Indian as a special-status individual rather than preparing him for independent citizenship (Affairs and Representatives 1945:340).

 

The statement above shows that Congress did not agree with the special status reserved for Indians. This was a complete reversal of the Collier programs, and a call for a change in Indian policy. It is directly following this statement that the discussions grow in Congress toward termination of the tribes.

Before Congress could get the tribes to agree on termination in the late 1940s, they worked towards socializing the Indian people into an assimilation mind-frame.  Grand Ronde Tribal Elders Bob Tom and Cheryle Kennedy both told stories of how, when they were children in the 1940s, their parents would have meetings at their houses on the weekends. Cheryle stated that Uncle Abe Hudson had a job at the Oregon State Capitol as a janitor and he would return to the reservation to tell everyone what was happening with federal Indian legislation:

…we always went to Aunt Maude’s, it was very important [grandma] would say, this awful thing is going to happen to us, as Grand Ronde Indian People, and that we need to be, we need to be aware and I remember they’d be sitting around the table like that and talking and sometimes other relatives would be there, and it was like this, ya’know as a child you just sense, ya’know, our… We’re scared! Something dreadful is going to happen. And we don’t know how to stop it. And so that is kind of the sense that I had. I guess you can’t really comprehend; at least I didn’t as a child, what it meant when they said you’re not going to be Indian any more. That just… I don’t know how that could happen. How could that happen? (Kennedy 2006).

 

Similarly, Bob Tom stated that his father moved the family from Siletz to Salem in the 1940s because he knew that termination was coming to the reservation and that they took the opportunity to move away and get good jobs in Salem (Tom 2006). The knowledge of the impending termination was supported by the build-up of federal Indian legislation, including the aforementioned inculcation of the children towards assimilation, and community discussions regarding termination.

In 1947, William Zimmerman, Assistant Director of the BIA, based his three assimilation lists on the assumption that some tribes were more assimilated than others.  Zimmerman’s administrative experiences in the 1940s with John Collier at the BIA where they regularly visited reservations gave him an informed perspective on the tribes. During the Congressional hearings, Zimmerman suggested that while not all tribes were assimilated enough to be release from federal management, that some were. Zimmerman was asked to produce a list of the tribe who may be released and therefore terminated. At the next hearing date, Zimmerman produced three lists of tribes, assimilated, partially assimilated, and not assimilated. In Zimmerman’s lists, the Grand Ronde tribe was listed under the partially assimilated category. Zimmerman stated that the lists should not be used for the final determination o(Affairs 1954b; Committee on Civil Service 1947). Even so, some ten years later the three lists were used by Congress, with few changes. Significant here is that the Grand Ronde-Siletz reservations were placed in the fully assimilated category and as such were targeted to termination in the first round of Congressional acts (Affairs 1954c).

The determination of assimilated was not preceded by any studies to determine the validity of the lists or categories. The original lists were created by Zimmerman from ready information available to him over the course of very few days. There were only the Ten Year Programs conducted in 1944, which reported the social character of the tribes during the end of WWII. Therefore, according to the manner in which Zimmerman produced him lists, there was no legitimate information to base the characterization of an assimilated status on any tribes in the United States. In fact the categories may relate closer to the overall status of the tribal government rather than the status of the tribal members. There was highly likely a significant difference in the status of the membership of the tribes in comparison with the organization.

Anthropological History

In the 19th century, after the Indian Nations had been removed to reservations in there were hundreds of tribes living in rural communities, segregated from mainstream American society. Under educational programs funded by the US government, Indian people began assimilating to American society.  Many natives wished to keep their tribal communities on the reservations and this served as a means of keeping their cultures alive (McNickle 1973:47). During this period anthropologists and other social scientists noticed a decline in Indian populations. At the time, social Darwinists thought that the decline meant that natives were inferior peoples and could not compete with the more civilized Euro-Americans (Morgan 1877). But it is a fact that conditions on reservations for natives were very poor and natives were unable to secure the same health care or social services as Americans.  Native people were dying of malnutrition, disease and neglect. The Indian Service did not maintain sufficient resources for the tribes to persevere, despite the tribes having treaties that required the government to provide such services.

In western Oregon alone, by the turn of the 20th century, there was between a 90% and 98% decline in populations from the pre-settlement era (Boyd 1999). Anthropologists and other social scientists feared that American Indians would go completely extinct. This caused a scramble by anthropologists, linguists, and folklorists to gather up the last remaining bits of cultural information they could write down, to somewhat preserve these “vanishing peoples” and cultures. This practice became known as “salvage anthropology” (Cole 1985). In addition, the assumption that Indians would go extinct may have assuaged the government into thinking that they would not have to do anything further to assimilate the Indians, as they were dying out anyway (Committee on Indian Affairs 1943:23).[18] But, in the decades that followed the pace at which Indians vanished did not reach extinction levels and Indian peoples found ways to survive and persevere:

until the third decade of the 20th century, Indian policy was rooted in the assumption that the Indians would disappear. Authorities responsible for policy continued to refer to a diminishing population long after the growth curve had turned upward (McNickle 1962:53).

 

By the 1930s, American Indian populations had rebounded (McNickle 1962:1-9, 53). In the 20th century, American Indians became the fastest growing ethnic group. In the 2000 census, American Indian population doubled from the 1990 census. It is unlikely that this is a population growth caused by more offspring, but likely the growth was caused by the social and economic changes for tribal issues in the United States.[19]

As well the American Indian Gaming Act was passed in 1989, so that by 2000 many tribes had established profitable casinos and it was economically viable to become a member of a tribe. At Grand Ronde, the restoration membership roll was slightly over 1000 people. The Grand Ronde Tribe’s Spirit Mountain Casino was built by 1995 and by 2000 there were over 4000 members at the tribe.  In the previous generations, those of the 1940s into the 1960s it was socially unacceptable to be a native person in many regions, including western Oregon. Many elders at Grand Ronde of that generation talk about the stigma of being identified as native.[20] This caused many to re-identify themselves as white. Correspondingly, this was the era when termination occurred. Termination offered an outlet for native people to become part of the socially accepted American white population. Many took this path. Federal educational programs intended to socialize native children helped many to assimilate.

In the present era, with the growth of casinos, it is actually financially beneficial to be a native as many tribes have per capita and other services as benefits of enrollment.[21] In addition, the census changed its questions in 2000 to include multiple ancestries. Using the 1990 census questions, American Indian populations doubled the national average of 13 percent. In the 1990s we saw a growth of native populations like no other time in history, from 26 to 110 percent, based on the new 2000 census questions (Ogunwole 2000).[22] Many of these newly identified native people are now re-discovering their genealogical and cultural past.  Their numbers were lost to the previous censuses due to the decisions of their parents and grandparents to leave the tribes.

Legislative History of Termination

Federal Indian Management Policy: 1887-1950

In the 20th century Tribal Nations saw a resurgence of political power. During the 19th century, natives were subjected to assimilation programs by the Indian Bureau and lost millions of acres of land through removal to reservations and the Dawes Indian Allotment Act (1887). As well, populations of the reservations declined due to neglect.  But in the 20th century the plight of the tribes became a political issue and Congress began investigating the causes.

Early in the 20th century John Collier was responsible for many of the reports and much of the criticism of the treatment of the tribes. Collier’s rise to Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1933 and his subsequent activism for tribal self-determination caused a resurgence of tribal political power which did not sit well with many Congressmen concerned about the poor state of economics in the United States. In the decades  following the devastating Depression Era (1931~1941) and a post-war economy following World War II (1941-1945) Congress sought solutions to the nation’s financial issues (Tyler 1973:141-148).

It is a result of these two major economic declines in U.S. history that millions of Americans moved westward, creating a great need for Federal investment in economic growth in the West, and the restoration of Midwest agricultural economies, programs which had been put on hold during WWII. The Department of the Interior was largely responsible for the restoration of the national agricultural economy through its Bureau of Reclamation. The tasks for the Bureau of Reclamation in the 1940s was substantial, with 18 states needing large damming projects to preserve necessary water resources, projects that had been on hold from the 1930s because of the advent of the war. Congress had to find “waste” in the budgets to fund the many reclamation projects.

Following World War II, it was discovered that Government employees had increased over two times the number from before the war and Congress began looking for ways to reduce the overhead by eliminating unnecessary and redundant programs.

The BIA was identified as hosting a number of redundant programs as they offered Indian people many of the same programs that the States offered average Americans. As well, other Department of Interior bureaus and offices offered services for education, and resource and land management that were parallel with those offered in the BIA (Committee on Civil Service 1947).

It was a well-defined issue in the early 20th century that BIA programs were generally under-funded and lost funding during WWII and so increased efforts for Indian assimilation did not occur (Senese 1991:3). In fact programs were so severely under-funded that in 1947 Senator William Langer of North Dakota on the Committee on Civil Service commented, “We know that about 600 [Indians] nearly starved to death in North Dakota”, to which, Deputy Commissioner of Indian Affairs William Zimmerman answered, “I am fully acquainted with the North Dakota situation. We obtained legislation authorizing us to correct some things, but that could not be carried out during the war” (Committee on Civil Service 1947).  In this same series of hearings before the Committee on Civil Service, projections by the Deputy Commissioner William Zimmerman indicated that most Tribes needed over ten years before they could handle their own affairs, but that there were a number of Tribes that could handle their own affairs if released from Federal trusteeship (Committee on Civil Service 1947:79, 544).

The answer was the dissolution of all services to assimilated Indians who did not need continuous federal support. Termination became the answer to the government’s overhead, and the resources from reservations would help with economic growth in the west (Tyler 1973:141-148).

In addition, While American Indians had seen a population explosion in the 20th century; they were not assimilating at a pace which would lead to the elimination of tribal reservations. American Indians remained the most impoverished group in the United States as a result of declining Federal support for the Indian Office and because Congress was consistently unwilling to pay what was needed to fully assimilate Indians. By the 1920s, Congress began looking for answers to their ‘Indian problem” and in the decades spanning 1920-1950 their policies for Indian management changed dramatically.

To add to the Indian problems, Tribes began sue the federal government in a series of Indian claims lawsuits. By the 1940s the success of the Indian claims became a major issue for the government, cost millions in appropriations. A solution needed to be found to this constant drain on the nation’s finances.

John Collier Administration

As Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier was a long-term advocate for Indian tribes. In the 1920s, John Collier led efforts in Washington, D.C. to repeal the Dawes Indian Allotment Act (1887) and its overt attempt to assimilate Indians. John Collier was very critical of the Indian Office and in 1928 wrote the Meriam Report, published as, “The Problem of Indian Administration” with the support of Congress. In 1962, John Collier had this to say about his earlier understandings of Indian society:

In those years, I still took for granted our modern fatalism: that the Indian’s spirit, and all aboriginal and ancient spirit, had to die… The ensuing twenty-five years seem to have proved that the fatalism was wrong, not only as applied to the American tribal Indian but as applied to groups in many parts of the world (Collier 1962:20-21).

 

John Collier’s constant struggle for reform against “corrupt government” got him appointed by reformer President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1933. Collier immediately got to work establishing programs in support of American Indians, many of which are still in existence. These are the Indian Civilian Conservation Corps (1933), Indian New Deal (1934), Indian Reorganization Act (or Wheeler-Howard Act 1934), and the Johnson O’Malley Act (1934). John Collier was tasked with reducing services to tribes while he attempted to increase tribal sovereignty over their own affairs. Collier was arguably the most significant political figure in Indian Affairs in the 20th century (Philp 1977:113-186).

Collier believed that tribes had formed cooperative commonwealths with democratic ideals and disagreed with his contemporaries that tribal societies needed to be shaped by the politics of social Darwinism (Philp 1977:xiii).  Throughout his career, John Collier worked directly with tribes to understand what they needed by making extended visits to reservations, involving tribes in his solutions, and working directly on Indian legislation. In 1945, John Collier, criticized of not doing enough to solve the “Indian problem”, tendered his resignation.

Under the John Collier directorship (1933-1945) the policy was changed to self-determination for many tribes. Collier supported the growth of tribalism (McNickle 1973), and Indian political power increased. Collier helped tribal governments with the passing of the Indian Reorganization Act (1934), as well as a host of other acts.[23]

However, John Collier was tasked with reducing government expenditures and reducing tribal reliance on the federal government. When self-determination did not produce quick results, Collier was ousted and the policy changed to liquidation and elimination of the reservation system and the Indian service.

Reports on Indians

In preparation for changes in Indian policy, the federal government engaged in a series of Indian reports that attempted to gather information about how the Indian Reservations were developing towards greater facility to support themselves. John Collier contributed to many of the historic government reports, the Meriam Report (1928), the Ten Year Programs (1944), and the report of the Subcommittee of the Committee of Indian Affairs House of Representatives (Affairs and Representatives 1944:335). From 1926 until the 1950’s, these reports served to keep Congress abreast of the conditions of the Indian nations and provided information about which tribes were assimilating, which tribes had access to education, and which tribes lived in conditions of poverty. In the 1940’s, there were a series of critical discussions in Congress that paved the way for termination. By 1952, termination was a sure prospect and tribes were keeping track of such legislation.

Meriam Report

The Meriam Report was organized and financed by John D. Rockefeller. In 1928 W. F. Willoughby, Director of the Institute for Government Research, submitted the report titled, The Problem of Indian Administration (Tyler 1973:114). The report “blamed much of the dismal poverty and hopelessness among Indians on the loss of their land and on the forced cultural change stemming from the allotment policy” (Burt 1982:3). The Meriam Report was well received and helped open the eyes of Congress and the public to the plight of Indians.

Ten-Year Programs

Before the Indian Claims Commission was formed, the government began collecting data from the reservations, in preparation for changes in Indian policy. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier (1933-1945) ordered the creation of planning reports containing full inventories of the population, the people’s social and cultural dispositions, and the assets and resources available at the reservation.[24] Over thirty of these “Ten-Year Programs” were researched and reported for tribal reservations across the United States.[25]

In the midst of and parallel with the legislative and political activities of the Indian Office and the tribes who were attempting to solve the Indian problems, tribes continued to file Indian claims against the federal government. The numbers of claims and the potential amount of the final payments for claims found to be legitimate began to wear away at the government’s ability to expeditiously settle them. Therefore, a plan was developed to form a special Indian Claims Commission (1946) intended to settle all claims within 10 years. This noble intention was not accomplished in that time frame and the Indian Claims Commission was continuously extended and kept taking claims and attempting to settle them well into the 1970’s (see chapter 5).

John Collier was communicative with his associates in the Indian Office about the intent of the Ten-Year Programs in the Indian Office circulars.[26] On November 15, 1943, John Collier wrote an explanatory essay of the intention of the Ten-Year Program reports (Collier 1943). In this essay, Collier attempts to answer some of the questions on the minds of many Indian Office employees; “What are we planning for? Over what time span are we planning? What are the broad objectives of Indian administration? How can we move toward those objectives? And how is planning itself to be done?” Collier wrote extensively in this explanation about the Indian condition. The following quote is the most representative of the intentions of the Ten-Year Programs:

 

…I conceive the broad function of Indian policy and Indian administration to be the development of Indian democracy and equality within the framework of American and world democracy.… achieving full Indian democracy within and as a part of American democracy, is the continued survival, through all historical change and disaster, of the Indian tribal group, both as a real entity and as a legal entity…. The complete withdrawal of …protection would merely substitute a more difficult problem in place of one that is on the way to a solution. It would create a permanently dispossessed and impoverished group that would either have to live on the dole or would become one more sore spot in the body politic…. The government’s relationship to Indians is itself in transition…. I think we can agree, however, that federal advisory “supervision” ought not to be withdrawn until Indian have attained a fair political, economic, and cultural equality equivalent to that guaranteed by the Four Freedoms…. the Indians need political experience and economic experience. Our planning is directed to that end…”planning” must be democratic and participative, not authoritarian and directed….We must continue and increasingly, to plan with Indians and not for Indians. Plans for Indian advancement must be not only accepted but cooperatively devised by the Indian themselves (Collier 1943).

 

John Collier well knew of the debates happening within the federal government regarding liquidation and the end of the Indian Service. That liquidation of tribal reservations is a distinct possibility as emphasized by his allusion to the problems of authoritarian “planning”. Yet Collier’s plans in this inventory are to help the tribes efficiently utilize their tribal resources to gain political and economic experience. Still, this discussion clearly outlines what the prevailing thoughts were in society and among Indian service employees, that liquidation or termination of the tribal reservations was a possibility in the immediate future. It is very likely that Collier was asked to resign from his post as Commissioner of the Indian Office because of his insistence of helping to strengthen the Tribal communities for the benefit of their government, education and culture, thus causing the Indian Service to continue, and not assimilating Indian people fast enough so that the United States could eliminate long-term expenditures.[27]

The programs were likely intended to serve as the foundational documents for termination of the reservations. Regardless of the intent, the information obtained in the Ten-Year Programs was used extensively during the 1947 Congressional discussions that established the arguments in support of termination.

Siletz-Southwestern Oregon-Grand Ronde Ten-Year Programs

 

The Siletz-Southwestern Oregon-Grand Ronde Ten-Year Programs 1946-1955 (1944) reported that after many years of close association with white neighbors, Indian families should have become self-supporting and independent of government assistance. The report states that government assistance has been rather intensive since 1938, equipping and giving many the incentives to secure and hold responsible jobs. Since the WWII, most of the people at Siletz had demonstrated an ability to hold responsible jobs and they remained on those jobs.

The report also stated that the long association with the whites has accustomed the Siletz and Grand Ronde Indians to a living standard equal in most respects (houses excepted) to the whites. It is felt these better living experiences and increased incomes have and will continue to increase incentives for more effort.

In 1944, the Secretary of the Interior reported of the Office of Indian Affairs the positive direction of Indians of over the past ten years, encompassing much of the John Collier administration:

It was necessary to know how much progress Indians had made during those 10 years in the direction of democratic self-control and economic self-sufficiency, and what economy might best be done to safeguard and improve Indian organization and economy for the trying test of the post-war period (Collier 1944:253).

 

John Collier presents a hopeful report of the progress made among tribes through his philosophy of supporting and helping retain Indian self-sufficiency over their own affairs. However one year later, after Collier’s resignation in 1945, and under Commissioner William A. Brophy, there was a different perspective reported:

…Indian resources in some areas are far from sufficient to provide a decent livelihood for all Indians….Since Indian resources cannot be sufficiently augmented to support the population, which is increasing rapidly, many thousands of Indians must be helped to find economic opportunity and acceptance in the general national economy (Brophy 1945:233).

 

Following World War II Indian people experienced a decline in income. The tribes again became poverty stricken and since the post-war economy was so poor, there were few resources to come from the government to aid the Indian people.

 

It is unclear how the Congressional subcommittee report completed in December 1944 relates to the Ten-Year Program reports completed in March 1944. The Ten-Year Program reports are much more detailed and contain recommendations specific to each reservation. For the Siletz Reservation:

  1. To make the Indian a self-supporting, self-respecting, substantial citizen of the community, qualified through education, health and training to make his own living, and to contribute to the good of the community.
  2. Great emphasis on accomplishing the above by individual effort and increasingly less help from the Government.
  3. Adoption of the policy that Indians absorbed into a white community socially and economically cease to be a responsibility of the Government and eliminated as a ward.
  4. Definition of elimination as to wardship, assistance from the government, ownership of trust lands, and its future administration by the Government.
  5. Continued guidance and encouragement in tribal participation and management of community affairs and property.
  6. Decreasing Government assistance during the next ten years and final termination of such help at the end of that time (Bureau of Indian Affairs and Agency 1944:Siletz 23).

 

The Siletz program intends to create a path to a successful termination of the tribe. In fact, the last step stipulating “final termination” is a clear indication that this is the intention of the U.S. Government. There is a clear path presented, with no options but to work toward termination.

At Grand Ronde, many of the people were successfully integrating into American society. Many had left the reservation to live in Portland and other cities because of poor treatment and poverty on the reservation. As stated previously, Grand Ronde was more connected to the cities as it was closer to Salem and Portland and there is a major coast access road that runs through the reservation. Therefore, as they were more accessible than the remote Siletz Reservation, Grand Ronde had established an active business council, had accepted the Indian Reorganization Act that resulted in the creation of a tribal constitution and a governmental restructuring, and was well on its way to full assimilation:

  1. Continued advice and guidance to the tribal organization, looking toward more management of community affairs by the Indians themselves.
  2. Discussion and formulation of plans to eliminate from future programs, those who have moved permanently away from the Indian community.
  3. The development of more Indian families at Grand Ronde into self-supporting citizens of their community.
  4. Necessary help from the Government until this goal is reached.
  5. Provision of work projects and other assistance to help returning soldiers and defense workers toward the same goal (Bureau of Indian Affairs and Agency 1944:Grand Ronde 12).

 

The goals for Grand Ronde seem cursory compared to those for Siletz and Southwestern Oregon. Grand Ronde was well on its way to complete self-sufficiency for all members. And the mention of the war industry workers (#5) shows how much Grand Ronde people had taken advantage of the opportunity to gain better paying jobs in the war industry.

Similarly the Southwestern Oregon program goals were:

  1. An early determination of those individuals entitled, by blood or tribal affiliation, to recognition as Indians, and an indication of those individuals by approval of the present roll or issuance of instructions for preparation of a suitable roll.
  2.  In the interest of economy and to limit the size of any program for the future, those Indians of less than one-half Indian blood should probably be eliminated from consideration in any future program, but it is felt these also could be assisted to secure land and small financial loans, including education.
  3. The various groups discussed have never discontinued tribal affiliation and most individuals have close relatives at Grand Ronde or Siletz. All these groups desire and it is felt they should be authorized to organize, and be recognized under the reorganization act.
  4. Land in small parcels is a vital necessity for most Indian families. No recommendation is made for a full allotment of 160 acres in each case, unless farming is intended, but homes and small plots are essential.
  5. Organization of the people at each community, better enabling them to assist themselves and providing easier contacts with the Salem Office.
  6. Assistance concentrated during the next ten years.
  7. The goal for each family should be a suitable home and an increase equal to that of other families with similar training and background (Bureau of Indian Affairs and Agency 1944:Southwestern 18).

 

Overall when examining the goals for all three groups we must assume that they are intended to be preparing for termination, before there is a definite plan and before it is a certainty. In later sections of this chapter, we will see how families knew termination was inevitable well before the date was set.

House of Representatives Investigations

The House of Representatives convened their own investigative subcommittee, Subcommittee of the Committee on Indian Affairs House of Representatives. Their report was delivered in a hearing before the committee in December 19, 1944. The intent of this committee was to investigate the conditions of American Indians first hand, as many Congressmen did not agree with the reports from the Indian Office and did not think Commissioner John Collier was doing a good job. Their criticisms held through the 1940’s.

Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs

Generally the committee is concerned with hearing testimony on Indian affairs and other matters relating to, “… care, education, and management of Indians, including the care and allotment of Indian lands and general and special measures relating to claims which are paid out of Indian lands.” In 1954 the committee received a survey team report of a study of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and making specific “recommendations for a more efficient and effective organization and improved operating procedures…” (Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs 1954a:vi-1).

The survey report had many recommendations; however the most important for illuminating the matter of termination and the decisions of Federal officials regarding the competence of Indians to be freed of government management are directly in relation to the definition of Indians, and the competency of Indians to be independent, and the plans for transferal of responsibility for Indians.  The most troubling of the recommendations, on the eve of the termination of Oregon tribes, is that of some confusion of the definition of an Indian:

The survey team found that no one can answer precisely the question “Who is an Indian?” Various limited definitions exist, such as the legal limitation that the Bureau can pay school tuition only for Indians possessing a minimum of one-quarter degree of Indian blood. This problem of definition involves the related questions of wardship or trusteeship, tribal membership, and maintenance of tribal rolls. The question is complex, but until it is settled by law, the problem remains open-ended and not even a gradual narrowing of the limits of Federal responsibility will be possible (Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs 1954a:vi-1).

 

The implication of the findings of the survey is enormous as even though there was this lack of a legal definition of who is an Indian, the federal government still commenced with the termination of federal responsibility over tribes. However, in the same set of recommendation the survey team found that:

The Bureau is handling the affairs of many completely competent and oftentimes financially independent Indians. The survey team believes that some way should be provided, by legislation if necessary, to enable the Bureau to turn over to such Indians the complete responsibility for handling their own affairs (Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs 1954a:vi-1).

 

This observation partially contradicts the previous recommendation. It is confusing that the survey team does notice that the primary Federal bureau in control of the Indians does not have a definition of what an Indian is, while the survey team appears to have an economic agenda that despite this previous issue, some Indians need to be removed from trusteeship. It would be better if the survey team would have recommended a study to determine what an Indian is, at all levels of understanding, including whether they were financially independent.

Legislative Beginning: 1947

Previous to the termination legislation of the 1950s, we find a number of informative hearings that paved the path for termination to follow. In the Hearings before the Committee on Civil Service, United States Senate, January 21-24, 1947, we find the initial formation of the basic reasons for termination, as well as the creation of the method of evaluation by which tribes were chosen (Committee on Civil Service 1947).

The initial context for these hearings is that in 1947, the post-WWII period, the government found that they had an increase of 195.7 percent of employed people working for the government in comparison with the employed people in 1938 (Committee on Civil Service 1947:8). This was an incredible burden on the government and the committee was talked with getting rid of all “surplus employees” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:8). The Indian service was chosen because they had 11,500 employees to take care of roughly 350,000 Indians and committee “figured they had too much help”, even though the whole Interior Department had only increased by 3562 employees since 1938 (Committee on Civil Service 1947:9).

Nevertheless, William Zimmerman, Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs was subjected to a barrage of questions from 13 Congressmen; of them Chairman William Langer is notable as coming from South Dakota, a state with a high population of American Indians. William Zimmerman first provided the context of the Indian Service and its need for additional resources:

In my own judgment the Indian Service is not doing a complete job. It is not rendering equally to all the Indians throughout the country the service for which we are responsible…. There has not been a single year in which the Budget Bureau has allowed us the full sum requested by us to do the job, and I think it is also true that in no single year has Congress approved the estimate as submitted by the Bureau of the Budget. In other words, we know and we admit that there are certain Indian children who are not in school. They are not in school because we do not have the school buildings or teachers…” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:74).

 

Zimmerman well represents the situation as it had existed for 100 years; however Chairman Langer had a different perspective:

Now we are interested, some of us now-and I one of them- and it seems to be after 100 years if these Indians cannot take care of themselves now they never will be able to, and I would like to have you opinion on this (Committee on Civil Service 1947:78).

 

Chairman Langer is then dismissive of the fact that Congress has not provided adequate resources to deal with the situation he is describing, of “Indian not being able to take care of themselves” (Service 1947:78). However, this trivializes those Indian people that are taking care of themselves and does not take into account that fact that many tribes simply did not want to live according to American cultural values.

Later Zimmerman brings up another issue:

…few Indians have been willing to renounce their tribal membership unless they could get the pro rata distribution of the tribal assets; and those assets, in many instances, include undeterminated claims against the Federal Government (Committee on Civil Service 1947:81).

 

This issue indeed is significant and points out the continued benefits of membership in a tribe. This is a key issue of the settlement of the Indian claims became one of the goals that Indian Agents exploited to reportedly force tribes to approve termination. It is the oral history that originates from issue that continues to this day and contributes to the “welfare state” status of many tribes. Many tribal members feel that the government will one-day pay-up on its responsibilities and so they are waiting for the future payday. Later, Zimmerman addresses this issue again:

These provisions for the graduate relinquishment of Government supervision would tend certainly to reduce those claims and ultimately to eliminate them (Committee on Civil Service 1947:124).

 

The claims against the Federal Government were mainly for the mismanagement of funds and other assets by the Indian Office. The claims would be eliminated because there would be no future filings, as the Indians would not be in federal trust and therefore their assets would not be managed by the Indian Office.

Zimmerman then creates the foundation for the assimilation lists with these statements during the hearings:

We have no one over-all plan. We have made a study of each reservation, of each Indian group and have attempted to measure their present assets and have attempted to work out a program for each group (Committee on Civil Service 1947:86).

 

…Congress might well reconsider some legislation we proposed, to turn law and order over to the States. That would be a definite step (Committee on Civil Service 1947:126).

 

…a substantial portion of the Indian population can be relieved of Federal supervision in 20 years (Committee on Civil Service 1947:128).

 

Congress has it within its power to negate treaties and repeal treaties and statutes (Committee on Civil Service 1947:130).

 

The personnel of the Indian Service is engaged in rendering a variety of services that provide education, medical services, building roads, developing irrigation systems, and generally developing Indian reservations, and assisting the Indians in bringing them into use. Obviously, the cost of this service can be reduced. It is possible to curtail or eliminate any one of those. It would also be possible to reduce the number of Indians who are entitled to this service (Committee on Civil Service 1947:543).

 

The statements by William Zimmerman are stated over a period of 4 days of testimony before the Committee on Civil Service. During the course of the hearings, Zimmerman and the Committee appear to be developing the termination program boundaries as they discuss it. Zimmerman is then asked at the end of day three to come to the next day’s hearing with some options for reducing the costs of the Indian Bureau. Hereafter all dialogue is included:

Mr. Zimmerman- I have prepared a list of the Indian groups, by their present jurisdictional units or reservations. I have broken that down into three parts. The first list includes those which in my judgment could be denied Federal services immediately or in the future, whichever the Congress should decide. In the second group there are a number of tribes who should be able to function with a small degree of Federal supervision, or no Federal supervision whatever, within 10 years. That second group includes some tribes for which a definite congressional policy should be established. The termination of Federal service would place the burden either on the Indians or on the States, and the termination of Federal service should not be brought about with full attention to that result.

Now, the third group are the remaining tribes which, so far as can be foreseen today, would require a longer term than the 10-year term. I would like to point out in passing that the 10-year period is an arbitrary one. I selected it for two reasons, first because we had in the Indian Office prepared data, to which some reference has been made previously, on our so-called 10-year program, and the second.” reason is that the Indian Commission has a 10-year period in which to make its findings on the claims of the Indians against the United States. In the first group I have included these: the Flathead, the Hoopa, Klamath, Menominee, Mission, the Six Nations of New York, the Osage Tribe in Oklahoma, the Potawatomi in Kansas, and the Indians in northern California under the jurisdiction of the Sacramento Agency. Now, I have also in this first group, Mr. Chairman, tentatively placed the Turtle Mountain group in North Dakota, but I would like to discuss then a little later when I make the proposal to your committee that the State of North Dakota take over the Sacramento administration of the Indian Affairs in that State.

Mr. Chairman. Can you tell us about how many Indians there are in that group?

Mr. Zimmerman. Roughly, about 40,000 Indians. The second group is a rather longer group. I will just read these by name, and, Mr. Chairman, or any member of the committee, if you want to ask me about them, I shall be glad to explain why I think they belong in those groups [reading]: Blackfoot, Cherokee, Cheyenne River, Colville, Consolidated Chippewa, Crow, Fort Belknap, Fort Peck, Fort Totten, Grand Ronde, Great Lakes, Northern Idaho, Quapaw (in part), Taholah (Tulalip), Tomah, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Wind River (In part), Winnebago (in part).

Senator Thye: How many would be in that group, Mr. Zimmerman?

Mr. Zimmerman. I would make a rough guess, at least 50,000 or 60,000.

Mr. Riley. Mr. Chairman, may I ask how many personnel that would be designed to release?

Mr. Zimmerman. In the first group I estimate at least 500 employees could be eliminated.

Mr. Riley. How much less budget would that require; do you know?

Mr. Zimmerman. I have not that figure tabulated. I can supply that very easily if you wish.

Mr. Riley. As much as $5,000,000, do you think?

Mr. Zimmerman. I think it should not be that high

(Committee on Civil Service 1947:544-545).[28]

 

Therefore under Zimmerman’s plan upwards of 100,000 Indians would be terminated, releasing more than 500 workers from their jobs, and releasing the government from upwards of $5,000,000 in overhead. The third group of tribes is not spoken about as they would not be ready for termination for an indefinite time.

In Zimmerman’s plan, he lists Grand Ronde as part of the second group. Grand Ronde here is actually the Grand Ronde-Siletz Agency that would also include the Southwestern Oregon Indians as part of the agency’s oversight. In the termination categories from 1954, Grand Ronde-Siletz Agency was included in the first category (Affairs 1954b). It is unclear why there was a category change, although the rise of Oregon’s Governor Douglas McKay to the position of Secretary of the Department of Interior a year before the decision was made may have been a factor. In the associated tables that Mr. Zimmerman included in this presentation, Grand Ronde is identified as having “no resources” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:545-546). This was probably the factor that situated the Grand Ronde and Siletz Agency in the second category in 1947 (Committee on Civil Service 1947).

As mentioned in the Ten-Year Program for Grand Ronde, the western Oregon Indians would have needed help from the government to become self-sufficient enough for termination, (Affairs and Agency 1944). However, additional aid did not occur over the next ten years, 1944-1954. Support from the government to acquire additional lands ended when John Collier resigned as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (1945). The attention of the federal government in the 1950s was on how the Indians could be expeditiously terminated and their land sold to the public. When termination occurred, all of the lands owned by the agency were sold off as part of the termination program.

The 10-year termination period for the second group was first called “arbitrary” by Zimmerman, and then he establishes some better reasoning:

I selected it [10 years] for two reasons, first because we had in the Indian Office prepared data, to which some reference has been made previously, on our so-called 10-year program, and the second reason is that the Indian Claims Commission has made a 10-year period in which to make its findings on the claims of the Indians against the United States” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:546).

 

Therefore, Zimmerman presents a connection with the Ten-Year Programs and the Indian Claims Commission proceedings. The final settlements for both issues would be settled at the same time, neatly clearing up the “Indian problem.” Zimmerman continues:

It is entirely possible that some of these tribes who have very substantial assets will receive substantial recoveries, and it, as a result of judgments paid by the United States they then have substantial assets, my judgment would be that the amount or degree of Federal supervision could be properly and probably immediately curtailed, because those tribes would be in position then to finance their own functions (Committee on Civil Service 1947:546).

 

What actually occurred was that the settlements, while substantial, were not enough to provide self-sufficiency, and there are accusatory stories of the Indian Agents holding the claims payments hostage to gain signatories in favor of termination.

In the first group are a number of well-situated tribes that had successful economies, and as Zimmerman writes, “could be denied Federal services immediately” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:546). In the first group is the Klamath tribe of Oregon, with over 900,000 acres of timberland. Wade Crawford, a former Indian Agent, and member of the Klamath Tribes testified that:

The record shows that in the past 34 years our income from timber receipts has been $19,107,633.52. The coast of administration from the time we signed the treaty up to 1936 was $7,434,601.03. That leaves a balance of $12,127,162.49. In other words, during this period of administration for approximately 38 years the Klamath paid for the administration of all of their affairs over $7,000,000 (Committee on Civil Service 1947:138).

 

Mr. Crawford presents an image of the Klamath Reservation as being very successful. However, to further prove his point, Mr. Crawford continued:

We have had probably seven or eight white people on the reservation to one Indian for the past 25 or 30 years we have three towns on the reservation. The main railroad goes through the reservation. The main highway goes through the reservation. And the Indians there have assimilated with the whites for the past 50 years….They live there the same as anybody else. They make their own individual living. The Indian Service does not do anything for them

(Committee on Civil Service 1947:138).

 

What Mr. Crawford is saying is that the Indians do not need the administration of the Indian Office. In Mr. Crawford’s overall statement he is critical of Mr. Zimmerman and later states, “…this Indian Bureau will continue for a hundred years if you will listen to fellows like Mr. Zimmerman…” (Committee on Civil Service 1947:144). From interviews of Klamath tribal members Tom Ball and Gordon Bettles, Wade Crawford is named as a person who took advantage of the position of Indian Agent, and was fired for it. Mr. Crawford apparently was the only tribal member that was invited to testify before Congress because he was in support of termination.[29] According to his testimony presented in the Civil Service hearings in 1947, this certainly is the case.

In the Secretary of the Interior’s report for 1947, William A. Brophy makes a compelling case for termination based on economic figures:

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is charged with the responsibility of so administering the resources held in trust by the United States for Indian tribes and individuals that, through the development of these resources for effective use by the Indians, it may remove itself as trustee and withdraw the public services which it now provides for the Indian population (Brophy 1947).

 

Brophy goes on to list a number of problems of Indian farmers:

So long as the agricultural income of Indian farm families, derived from the use of their land, remains at its present low level the Indians will be unable to pay property taxes sufficient in amount to reimburse either the States of the Federal Government for the cost of the services provided (Brophy 1947).

 

This is a well known problem for tribes at this time. Rennard Strickland has described the problem well by critiquing the fact that Indians in Indian schools were taught mainly farming trades at a time when farming was becoming an unsustainable lifestyle in the United States. Millions of people began moving into the cities to become wage laborers during the early part of the 20th century. Only farmers with very large land holdings could sustain in the economy. Yet, tribes were not included in their industrial change and so farming was all they knew how to do. Compounded with this, Brophy identifies the associated issue:

The poverty of Indian people is largely traceable to the fact that during the 50 years preceding 1934 they were induced, often compelled, to dispose of their best lands. Between 1887 and 1934, Indian land holdings decreased from 138 million acres to 50 million acres… (Brophy 1947:345-346).

 

Therefore what we see occurring is the continuation of educating Indian people and expecting Indian people to farm their lands to subsist when they are losing land, and when the economy cannot sustain that lifestyle. Brophy was seeking an expeditious way to recommend termination for the near future based on the impossible condition of the Indian people.

Public Law 280

The true legislative beginning of termination is cited by many scholars as the passing of Public Law 280 in 1952, which allowed some states to take over criminal legal jurisdictions for certain Indian reservations. PL 280 authorized the states of California Minnesota, Oregon, and Wisconsin to assume civil and criminal jurisdiction over Indian reservations, with some exceptions.  In Oregon, Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations came under the jurisdiction of the state for civil and criminal law enforcement. Warm Springs was specifically excluded from the law (Fixico 1986:112).

The law was intended as a reform measure to liberate tribes from federal dependence (Fixico 1986:111). The importance of PL 280 is that if tribes are sovereign governments, they are intended to be legally equal to states under the federal government. If states have legal jurisdiction over tribal lands, then states are being placed on a higher legal status from tribal governments. PL 280 then is an erosion of tribal legal and political power over their sovereign status.

The states did not appreciate the implications of PL 280. Under the law they were expected to take on the additional burden of legal jurisdiction over several thousand Indian people and several thousand acres, as well as supply government services to replace those services that the BIA was retracting (Fixico 1986:112). This action intended to take the burden off of the federal government for these services at a time when they were trying to reduce their overhead, and place this responsibility on the states. But the states were also in an economic depression and so they did not welcome this responsibility. The primary reason then for this act was to manage the historic social and economic problems that remote rural reservations and those with no abundant resources had experienced, that of having less access to all services and the administration of their reservation being severely under-funded by the BIA for decades. These reservations had suffered from neglect and had been subject to local opportunism since their beginning (Fixico 1986:111). So the law intended to rectify these problems by turning over the responsibility to local state programs who could more easily respond to local issues through established state, county and urban service organizations

PL 280 was the first of a proposed series of laws which were intended to dismantle the BIA. Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay established a survey team to make recommendations as to how to ease the withdrawal of Indian services (Fixico 1986:112 , endnote 5).[30] “The team recommended decentralization and consolidation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington through a reduction of its functions and personnel” (Fixico 1986:113). Responsibilities would we transferred to the area offices, and area offices would be consolidated. These actions would reduce personnel and ease overall operating costs (Fixico 1986:113).

House Concurrent Resolution 108

Amid the discussions on termination and reductions of Indian services the House Concurrent resolution 108 was passed on February 17, 1954:

Whereas it is the policy of Congress as rapidly as possible to make the Indians within the Territorial limit of the United States subject to the same laws and entitled to the same privileges and responsibilities as are applicable to other citizens of the United States, and to grant them all of the rights and prerogatives  pertaining to American citizenship, and directing the Secretary of the Interior to report to Congress his recommendations as to what legislation, in his judgment, may be necessary to accomplish the purposes of said resolution (Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs 1954b:44734).

 

CR 108 was passed because Indians had proven to many Congressmen that they were capable of handling their own affairs.  Native soldiers had served well in World War II and were serving well in the Korean War which proved the case for the government. Some Senators, like Senator Watkins, could not understand why Indians did not have every opportunity for advancement that white men had:

Mr. Maytubby: … there are many qualified Indian boys and girls in Oklahoma that would make fine physicians and surgeons if they had the money to go to school and be educated.

Senator Watkins: Why can they not do the same as the white man does, like my family’s physician, for instance? I wanted to be a lawyer. The Government did not come around and offer to pay my tuition and pay my board and lodging and other expenses white I went to college. I had to get out and work long, hard hours for it. I know some fellows, who had rich dads, and they did not turn out so well (Fixico 1986:92-93).

 

Herein is a more politicized language that essentially means that Indians will be freed from management by the Indian Office to manage their own affairs.

Interestingly enough, Indians were already considered American citizens by the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924:

BE IT ENACTED by the Senate and house of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all non citizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States: Provided That the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property. (Approved June 2, 1924).

 

The Indian Citizenship Act does not address their freedom from Indian Office management of their federal trust allotments. Therefore, while they were fee, they still had to abide by the policies of the Indian Office regarding their lands. This was in effect a limited freedom, dependant on the federal government for the continued management of their lands and federal services serving the reservations. Then in House Concurrent Resolution 108, the last piece of federal management of lands is declared removed for the tribe, “as rapidly as possible” for all Indians. The intent of this resolution is to set into motion the termination of all Indians and the elimination of the Indian Office.

House concurrent resolution 83-108 endorsed termination and named tribes as candidates. Under Director of Indian Affairs Glenn Emmons, Assistant Director William Zimmerman created a list of tribes he thought were at one of three stages of acculturation. These lists were created without scientific or any other evidence beside Zimmerman’s personal experiences of visiting the tribes. Zimmerman cautioned the Congress about using the list, yet ten years later they became the de facto lists used to terminate tribes. Secretary McKay in fact used the Zimmerman lists and testimony as evidence to support his argument that Congress had in fact gained expert testimony regarding which tribes to terminate:

If you ask how the groups were selected by Congress for inclusion in Resolutions no. 108, it may be that we can find a clue in testimony submitted to the Senate Civil Service Committee on February 8, 1947, by Mr. William Zimmerman, Jr. who was then Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs and is now your associate in the organization which you head. As part of his testimony Mr. Zimmerman submitted to the Committee a list of tribal groups which, he said, “could be denied Federal services immediately or in the future, whichever Congress should decide.” Included were not only the Klamath and Menominee Tribes but several others such as the Flatheads of Montana, the New York Indians, the Potawatomi group, and (conditionally) the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Band of North Dakota which were later named in House Concurrent Resolution  No. 108. In fact the parallel between the Zimmerman list of 1947 and the Congressional list of 1953, while not complete in all details, is remarkably close. To me, therefore, there is no special mystery about the selection of the groups included in resolution No. 108. If the Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs felt that these groups could be denied Federal services immediately back in 1947, certainly the Congress was justified in concluding that such action could be taken in 1953 (McKay 1955).

 

Secretary McKay’s argument about the way tribes were chosen for termination depends on the legitimacy of Mr. William Zimmerman’s report, the Associate Commissioner of Indian Affairs under both Commissioners Collier and in 1947 Commissioner Brophy. During the time of this testimony in 1947, Mr. Zimmerman had to take over from Commissioner Brophy because Brophy was ill. Zimmerman clearly had more experience with all of the tribes, as he had been the Associate Commissioner under John Collier, the previous Commissioner who had made it a point to visit tribes as much as possible. However, Mr. Zimmerman created the termination lists, over the course of a few days, without the benefit of sufficient time to think carefully about his decisions. Essentially the three lists, acculturated tribes, partially acculturated and not acculturated, came from his personal experience (Brophy and Aberle 1966).

Conclusion

Federal Indian policy was instrumental in the formation of the reservation system. The reservations served as management centers for the federal government to manipulate the tribes. Tribes were subjected to poverty conditions and attempts at assimilation. Some of the efforts had a positive impact on the tribes, first giving land to the peoples at a time when they desperately needed the help. But federal Indian policy was never consistent nor well financed and most well meaning efforts ended after the current administration left office. Therefore, in the most important period, when tribal management was turned over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs from the Department of War, Indian policy was managed in a haphazard manner with tribes having to fend for themselves. This left the tribes without an effective administration, which results in the Indian Claims Cases of the eventually termination in the first half of the 20th century. The Indian Claims Cases and termination were intended to completely release the Federal government from their responsibilities to the tribes forever.

Bibliography

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[1] Resources are  defined as  property such as timber, cattle, and land, the basic commodities required for people to find habitation and to thrive, to raise or  use the natural resources of the land.

 

[2] A common figure of the number of tribes removed to Grand Ronde reservation.

 

[3] The initial plan was to move the Indians east of the Cascades, a plan advanced by the Oregon Territorial Government as early as 1851 during the Anson Dart Treaty negotiations. But the Santiams refused this plan.

 

[4] My conjecture.

 

[5] See 1890 and 1900 Oregon Census and BIA reservation censuses for Oregon reservations. Compared with the 1857 Census of Grand Ronde Reservation that showed nearly 1000 Indians, the 300 Indians in 1900 depicts the decline of the tribes.  The population decline can be attributed to diseases, inadequate medical care, and to assimilation of natives into American society and away from the reservations.

 

[6] See chapters 7-8.

 

[7] Also commonly called the Wheeler-Howard Act.

 

[8] See chapters 7-8.

 

[9]  Also see, Fletcher V. Peck, 6 Cranch (1810).

 

[10] Approved, June 2, 1924. June 2, 1924. [H. R. 6355.] [Public, No. 175.] SIXTY-EIGHTH CONGRESS. Sess. I. CHS. 233. 1924. Also see House Report No. 222, Certificates of Citizenship to Indians, 68th Congress, 1st Session, Feb. 22, 1924.

 

[11] Native peoples were not allowed to claim social security in Arizona, and in Oregon Native peoples could not marry whites.

 

[12] Also commonly called the General Allotment Act, the Dawes Allotment Act, or the Dawes Act.

 

[13] This is the case in many tribes contemporarily. Even though many tribal peoples know that blood quantum is not a traditional value, this is a way of limiting and managing the vast number of disenfranchised who are seeking to return. The politics of casinos and the new wealth and prosperity of much of Indian Country, either actual or perceived, has taken over the politics of citizenship.

 

[14] SWORP- Series 1, Heirship allotment files.

 

[15] For a summary of changes in Indian policy relevant to termination, see the appendix.

 

[16] The BIA was training Indians and supported the use of land for farming. During this era there were many collapses in agriculture throughout society, farming as a means of individual subsistence was becoming nearly impossible to make a living at. There was little support for the establishment of urban living with high density properties on reservations. As well the BIA saw reservations as part of the Indian problem and sought to have Indians move to cities to assimilate. (Rennard Strickland 2005 Personal observations and conversations).

 

[17] A small distribution magazine that had articles from staff of the BIA. Most articles reported in a positive manner the progress of Indian assimilation and the need for increased efforts by the Indian peoples to accept assimilation, education and relocation. Some of the writers were anthropologists of some renown, like Ruth Underhill.

 

[18]John Collier points out the common assumption of the continued decline in Indian populations as being in error.

 

[19] My assertion based on contemporary American Indian history.

 

[20] This is a common understanding and is pointed out on many occasions by elders.

 

[21] Generally true, although some tribes struggle in more remote rural areas.

 

[22] “The 1990 census showed there were nearly 2 million American Indians. Using the American Indian

alone population in 2000, this population increased by 516,722, or 26 percent, between 1990 and 2000.

If the American Indian alone or in combination population is used, an increase of 2.2 million, or 110 percent, results. Thus, from 1990 to 2000, the range for the increase in the American Indian population was

26 percent to 110 percent. In comparison, the total population grew by 13 percent from 248.7 million in

1990 to 281.4 million in 2000.”

 

[23] See appendix.

 

[24] See DOI circulars 3514 & 3537 for the orders and justifications.

 

[25] Check number of reservations at the time and how many of these Ten-Year Plans were created, only about 30 are listed in Worldcat, but there could be more in the Department of the Interior library, their primary repository.

 

[26] A series of policy statements and orders to Indian Agents and Indian office teachers.

 

[27] Collier was also criticized of being socialist or communistic in his approach to the Indian problems. Following WWII Indian tribes and were also labeled communistic in their community and communal lifestyles.

 

[28] Emphasis mine, The Grand Ronde mentioned here is the Grand Ronde-Siletz Agency. The two agencies were joined as one in this time and hyphenated.

 

[29] Tom Ball and Gordon Bettles personal conversations 2006.

 

[30] Also see, Principle Recommendations of Survey team to Bureau of Indian Affairs 26, January 1954, box 115, official file, White House Central files, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library.

 

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