A Fateful Time
The Background And Legislative History Of The Indian Reorganization Act
Publication Year: 2000
Published by: University of Nevada Press
The quotations above typify polar and conflicting judgments on the significance and impact of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, or IRA.1 This statute, often referred to as the Wheeler-Howard Act after its chief alleged congressional authors, belongs among the small group of national laws that has profoundly affected the lives of Native Americans.2 The ira was the most important
Chap. 1: Indian Self-Government and the National Government During the 1920s
The Indian Reorganization Act grew out of the interaction of Native American societies with the United States government, particularly in the decade and a half before 1934. National government policy toward Native Americans had been far from consistent from the ratification of the Constitution to that date. In fact, the national government’s efforts in this area were notable for numerous...
Chap. 2: Status of Indian Governments During the 1920s
Although the record of bia involvement with Native American governments during the 1920s shows clearly that there were many such governments in existence at that time, both the extent and the character of existing Indian governments are unknown in an overall sense. Yet answers to the questions whether Native governments had died out in many societies and whether...
Chap. 3: Conflict and Consensus: The 1920s
By the end of the 1920s a near-consensus had developed among the “friends of the Indians” that forced assimilation was not working. It was agreed that Indians were being mistreated, improvement could not be expected if existing practices were continued, and assimilation had not occurred as rapidly as the creators of the policy had expected. This state of affairs was reminiscent of that...
Chap. 4: Rhoads-Scattergood Administration: New Era or Transition?
In 1929 the leadership of the Bureau of Indian Affairs changed for the first time since 1920. President Hoover’s secretary of the Interior, Ray Lyman Wilbur, declared that a “new era” had dawned for the Indian and that the nation was well on its way to solving “the Indian problem.” He predicted that with the right policies, “in a generation there would remain but a few small groups [of...
Chap. 5: Tribal Alternative: Early Versions
Actual Indian policy has been in practice, for most of our national history, little more than the summation of local decision-making. Yet the ideologies discussed in this book are important. The structures of ideas taken for granted by persons involved in specific transactions have an effect on outcomes (even if these are not always easy to predict). Moreover, occasionally the national gov-...
Chap. 6: John Collier and the Tribal Alternative
The views of John Collier on Indian policy before he became commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1933 are of central importance to this inquiry. He was the most important figure in creating the consensus that prevailed at the end of the 1920s that Indian policy had failed, and he was the most important single actor in the adoption and implementation of the Indian Reorganization Act...
Chap. 7: Drafting the IRA Proposal
With the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, John Collier became commissioner of Indian Affairs. The most persistent and effective critic of Indian policy for twelve years was given the chance to shape that policy himself. Lawrence Kelly has told well the story of how Collier came to be appointed to that position.1 Beyond dispute, he worked hard to win the appointment, because
Chap. 8: IRA Before Congress: Stalemate and Response
Although Commissioner Collier had with good reason assumed that the reform omnibus bill would be approved quickly by Congress simply because it was endorsed by the Roosevelt administration, things did not turn out that way. Instead, after a few early hearings no progress toward passage occurred at all for several months, and it was apparent that the bill was in serious...
Chap. 9: After the Summit: Final Form of the IRA
The Indian congresses, the unequivocal letter of support from President Roosevelt, and the Wheeler-Zimmerman summit meeting had by May 1934 made it all but certain that some kind of Indian Reorganization Act would become law. The precise content of this new, wide-reaching statute still remained to be decided, however. The Wheeler-Zimmerman meeting had determined that several key parts of...
Chap. 10: Conclusion
The background and detailed legislative history of the Indian Reorganization Act have presented a complex picture not easily reduced to a few simple conclusions. Before attempting to do just this, however, a few remarks on what has been learned about this topic in a general sense are in order. One theme running throughout this book has been that, at the national level,...