Indian Reorganization Act
The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of June 18, 1934, or the Wheeler–Howard Act, was U.S. federal legislation that dealt with the status of American Indians in the United States. It was the centerpiece of what has been often called the "Indian New Deal". The major goal was to reverse the traditional goal of cultural assimilation of Native Americans into American society and to strengthen, encourage and perpetuate the tribes and their historic Native American cultures in the United States.
|Other short titles|
|Long title||An Act to conserve and develop Indian lands and resources; to extend to Indians the right to form business and, other organizations; to establish a credit system for Indians; to grant certain rights of home rule to Indians; to provide for vocational education for Indians; and for other purposes.|
|Enacted by||the 73rd United States Congress|
|Effective||June 18, 1934|
|Public law||Pub. L. 73–383|
|Statutes at Large||48 Stat. 984|
|Titles amended||25 U.S.C.: Indians|
|U.S.C. sections created||25 U.S.C. ch. 14, subch. V § 461 et seq.|
The Act also restored to Indians the management of their assets—land and mineral rights—and included provisions intended to create a sound economic foundation for the residents of Indian reservations. The law did not apply to the territories—including what would become the state of Hawaii, and the state of Alaska—nor did they apply to the state of Oklahoma, which until the McGirt case was regarded as having dissolved its reservations. In 1936 however, the rights of the Indigenous people of Alaska and Oklahoma were recognized under a subsequent law. The census counted 332,000 Indians in 1930 and 334,000 in 1940, including those on and off reservations. Total U.S. spending on Indians averaged $38 million a year in the late 1920s, dropping to an all time low of $23 million in 1933, and reaching $38 million in 1940.
The IRA was the most significant initiative of John Collier, who was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) from 1933 to 1945. He had long studied Indian issues and worked for change since the 1920s, particularly with the American Indian Defense Association. He intended to reverse the assimilationist policies that had resulted in considerable damage to American Indian cultures, and to provide a means for American Indians to re-establish sovereignty and self-government, to reduce the losses of reservation lands, and to build economic self-sufficiency. He believed that Indian traditional culture was superior to that of modern America, and thought it worthy of emulation. His proposals were considered highly controversial, as numerous powerful interests had profited from the sale and management of Native lands. Congress revised Collier's proposals and preserved oversight of tribes and reservations by the Bureau of Indian Affairs within the Department of Interior.
The self-government provisions would automatically go into effect for a tribe unless a clear majority of the eligible Indians voted it down. When approved, a tribe would adopt a variation of the model constitution drafted by BIA lawyers.