Indian termination was the policy of the United States from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s. The belief was that Native Americans would be better off if assimilated as individuals into mainstream American society. To that end, Congress proposed to end the special relationship between tribes and the federal government. The intention was to grant Native Americans all the rights and privileges of citizenship, and to reduce their dependence on a bureaucracy whose mismanagement had been documented. In practical terms, the policy terminated the U.S. government’s recognition of sovereignty of tribes, trusteeship of Indian reservations, and exclusion of Indians from state laws. Native Americans were to become subject to state and federal taxes as well as laws, from which they had previously been exempt.
During 1953–1964, 109 tribes were terminated, approximately 1,365,801 acres (5,527 km2) of trust land were removed from protected status, and 13,263 Native Americans lost tribal affiliation. As a result of termination, the special federal trustee relationship of the Indians with the federal government ended, they were subjected to state laws, and their lands were converted to private ownership.
By 1972 termination clearly had affected the tribes’ education. There was a 75 percent dropout rate for the Menominee Tribe. This dropout rate resulted in a generation of Menominee children who had only a ninth grade education. The tribes lost federal support for their schools. The states were expected to assume the role of educating the Indian children. The Menominee children for example did not have their own tribal schools anymore and were discriminated against within the public schools.
The Indian Health Service provided health care for many Indian tribes, but once a tribe was terminated they lost their eligibility. Many tribes no longer had any hospitals and no means to get health care. For example in the Menominee people had no tribal hospitals or clinics. The tribal hospital at Keshena had to close because it did not meet state standards.
Regaining federal recognition
There were over one hundred tribes terminated during this era. A few were able to regain their federal recognition. The tribes achieved this through long court battles, which for some tribes took decades and exhausted large amounts of money.
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