Native American Testimony

by Peter Nabokov
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What attitudes and beliefs shaped US Indian policy during the New Deal, and why did some Native Americans support the Indian Reorganization Act while others opposed it? Provide specific reasons mentioned in chapter 15 of Native American Testimony.

The Indian Reorganization Act was part of the New Deal. It was heavily influenced by John Collier, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who wanted to improve the economic situations of impoverished Native American families. It ended the allotment program and provided funding for Native Americans to buy back tribal lands that had been lost due to previous government legislation. The act benefited many tribes but was distrusted by many others.

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The Indian Reorganization Act was the cornerstone to legislation dealing with Native American populations as a part of the New Deal. The act was primarily a product of John Collier, who served as the Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs under Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration. Collier was heavily influenced by the Meriam Report, which highlighted the link between government policy and the poverty faced by many Native Americans during the time period. Determined to improve the lives of Native Americans, Collier introduced the Indian Reorganization Act which became a part of a series of sweeping Depression-era legislations known as the New Deal. The act ended the allotment program begun under the 1887 Dawes Act and also provided funding for Native Americans to purchase tribal lands lost under the allotment program. The act also encouraged tribal self-government by encouraging the establishment of new tribal councils and offering government recognition of tribal constitutions. This act was popular among several Native American tribes, with 174 forming new tribal constitutions; many tribes, however, distrusted the legislation, largely due to unkept promises of previous government administrations. For some Native American tribes, like the Navajo, the act had unintended negative effects, such as the destruction of the livestock-based tribal economy in a misguided government buy back program.

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