June 18th, Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) Becomes Law


On June 18, 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) into law. Also known as the Wheeler-Howard Act or the Indian New Deal, this legislation marked a significant shift in federal policy toward Native Americans in the United States.  Here are the key points:

  1. Purpose and Reversal of Assimilation Policies:
    • The IRA aimed to reverse the previous policy of assimilation, which pressured Native American tribes to leave reservations, abandon traditional ways of life, and move to cities.
    • Instead, the IRA granted greater autonomy to Native Americans, allowing them to have more control over their lands and form legally recognized tribal governments.
  2. Land and Tribal Governance:
    • The IRA made it easier for tribes to hold communal lands and purchase land back from private ownership.
    • It established a framework for tribes to create and ratify their own constitutions, which are now recognized by the federal government.
    • Many of these tribal constitutions serve as the law of the land in Indian territory.
  3. Improved Services:
    • The IRA directed much-needed funds to services like healthcare and education on Indian reservations.
    • While some argue that it failed to significantly improve economic conditions for Native Americans, it laid the groundwork for the current model of tribal sovereignty and paved the way for the full rollback of federal assimilation policies.

In summary, the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 was a pivotal moment that shifted U.S. policy toward recognizing Native American rights and self-determination
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