What negative impacts did the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 have?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were a number of major problems that stemmed from the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934.  Let us look at one major problem from the point of view of many Native Americans and one major problem from the point of view of non-Indians.

From the Native American point of view, the IRA can be criticized for the fact that it remained rather paternalistic.  The IRA did not let the tribes have their own governments that would be completely independent.  Instead, it ensured that the tribes would remain under the supervision of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  This was one reason why many tribes rejected the law.  They (and like-minded people even today) saw the law as a continuation of the paternalistic attitude of the American government towards the Native Americans.

From the non-Indian point of view, the law helped to create the very messy legal situation that now surrounds all things having to do with Native Americans and their relations with non-Indians.  For example, it gave the federal government the right to buy land and convert it into Indian land.  This creates a situation in which the government can buy land in a given jurisdiction and give it to an Indian tribe, thus giving them the right to, for example, build a casino.  The jurisdiction is then in the position of having a little “island” within it where its laws do not apply. 

Thus, the IRA of 1934 can be criticized both from the point of view of Native Americans and non-Indians.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the negative aspects of the Indian Reorganizatin Act was that it was put together so hastily, that many of the tribes were completely skeptical about its effectiveness and the amount of control from the federal government.  A large percentage of the tribes (seventy-seven out of roughly two hundred and thirty total tribes) refused to sign it.

One of the primary purposes of the new IRA was to counter-act the Dawes Act and make provisions for stronger tribal governments and leadership; however, in many cases the native americans were not closely enough involved to contribute to the new tribal constitutions, which basically resulted in weaker tribal governments. 

The worst failure of the Indian Reorganization Act was that it failed to create a sense of 'buy-in' from the tribes; since they did not feel a sense of ownership over the plan, the native americans' reaction to the programs and new tribal systems were mostly skeptical and negative.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question