Termination Policy

The years 1953-1954 marked the beginning of the Termination Policy, an application of the congressional Resolution 108. According to the policy, American Indians were to be freed from federal supervision and control and from all disabilities and limitations specially applicable to Indians. This meant that every BIA office would be abolished. This resolution was applied to all Indian populations from 1954 to 1960, specifically to 61 tribes, groups, and communities without any consultation with Indians. The BIA drew up a list of populations willing to live without federal services and then supervised the termination.

Natives affected by this policy were thus dependent on the states. Once again, numerous Native lands were lost to non-Natives. Moreover, the federal government strongly promoted a population move from reserves to the cities and urban areas. In 1952, Dillon Myer, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, initiated a program to urbanize Native populations, the so-called Relocation Policy. The BIA provided Indians with one-way bus tickets to destination cities usually far away from the reserves in addition to accommodations, one-year free medical services, and one-month financial support. Thereafter, the Natives would receive nothing. In 1954, the BIA created a Relocation Branch (with many offices in many cities) to supervise the resettlement of American Indians.

The Termination Policy greatly contributed to the lack of trust many Natives had in the bureau. The political Native movement originated in great part from dissatisfaction with the bureau, its politics, and its operations.

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