1953 to 1969: Policy of Termination and Relocation


1953: House Concurrent Resolution 108

States that, “at the earliest possible time, all of the Indian tribes and the individual members thereof located within the States of California, Florida, New York and Texas, should be freed from Federal supervision and control and all disabilities and limitations specifically applicable to Indians”.

  • The Klamath of Oregon and the Menominee of Wisconsin were terminated, as well as many smaller tribes from West Coast reservations (Deloria & Lytle, 1983). These tribes were ordered to distribute their land and properties to their members and dissolve their governments, and federal benefits and services were terminated (Pevar, 1992).
  • California rancherias were phased out. These tracts of land were established during the Depression as reserved land for homeless Indians (Deloria and Lytle, 1983, p18).
  • Over one hundred tribes were terminated from federal assistance.
    1953 Public Law 280 Allowed state governments to assume criminal and civil jurisdiction over Indian reservations in California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin, and the territory of Alaska, but states were not given rights to tax Indian lands (Deloria & Lytle, 1983).
  • Preserved hunting and fishing rights to tribal and federal protections.
  • It was not until 1970 that the policy of “termination” was officially ended by President Richard Nixon, although most federal termination activities had ceased by 1958.

Note: At the same time the federal government was terminating its responsibilities to tribes, Congress included Indian reservations in federal education programs created by Congress (1950), in the school construction programs (PL 815) and impact aid programs (PL 874), resulting in increased federal involvement in Indian education by 1958 (Deloria and Lytle,1983, p19).


1954: Transfer Act of August 5

The Transfer Act transferred all functions and duties of the Department of the Interior concerned with the maintenance and operation of hospital and health facilities for Indians to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services). (John & Baldridge, 1996.) Hospital, health facilities, property, personnel, and budget funds of the Indian Health Service were transferred to the US Public Health Service.

1955: Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Relocation Office, Established in San Jose, CA

There were four relocation sites in California: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland, as well as the cities of Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Dallas, and Denver. Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area were designated as vocational training centers. Thousands of Indians were moved off reservations to the cities in an effort to force assimilation.

Many of today’s elders in urban areas were relocated during this period. BIA relocation programs looked at least hopeful to Indians for a better future, and most intended to eventually return to the reservations. Adjustment to urban dominant society living was very difficult for most Indians, and many returned to the reservations without completing the relocation program.

Urban Indians suffered the same racial discrimination and inner city dysfunctions as other minorities. Some of those who stayed established Indian cultural communities within the urban environment, and helped create the urban Pan-Indian movement of today.

1968: Menominee Tribe v. United States

Supreme Court ruled that the Minominee retained its fishing and hunting rights even though Congress had “terminated” its reservation. Affirmed the principle that every tribe retains its hunting and fishing rights unless specifically extinguished by Congress (Pevar, 1992, p.191).

1959 to 1975: Vietnam War

42,500 American Indians served in Southeast Asia. Veterans are especially honored and carry the colors at the invocation of most Pow Wows today.