What Was the Termination Policy of 1953?

The termination policy of 1953 was the effort by the U.S. government to terminate tribes, assimilate Native Americans into the United States and subject them to the same laws as other citizens. This policy lasted to the mid-1960s.

The policy was inspired by a survey conducted in 1943. The living conditions on reservations were monitored, and it was discovered that most Native Americans in these areas were living in poverty. The U.S. government decided that mismanagement by the Bureau of Indian Affairs was causing this problem and it would be best for the Native Americans if their tribes were terminated and their people absorbed into the rest of American society. Power was given to the states to effect this change.

Neither the tribes nor the states liked this new law. The states had larger jurisdiction but no proper funding, and the Native Americans had no say in the matter. Furthermore, tribal lands were then taken by the federal government.

In 1968, tribes started appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that formal treaties and their rights under law had been overlooked. The termination policy was repealed in 1970. In 1973, the Menominee Restoration Act was signed into law. Several other tribes terminated by the act, such as the Catawba, Klamath and Choctaw tribes, were also restored.