Steve Russell: Termination and relocation a disastrous policy

Steve Russell on termination, relocation and Indian elders:
In the early 1950s, official government policy towards Indians discouraged this primitive way of living. The policy was called “termination and relocation.” Men of a certain age were offered cash and promised job placement if they would move to the cities. The Indian Health Service would even go along. Indians, mostly lacking education then as now, were to become part of the urban working class, the white part of which was thriving thanks to post-war demand, the GI Bill, and strong labor unions.

Did the tribal governments not resist the relocation of their work force? Well, that was the “termination” part. The plan was that once tribal citizens were living the assimilated life in the cities, the federal government would cease having a relationship with tribal governments. Some tribal governments, notably the Choctaw, bought this bill of goods.

It made no difference whether the tribes agreed, because the Supreme Court had long defined the relationship with Indian nations as one between guardian and ward. The good part of this is that guardians have a legal responsibility to act in the best interests of their wards. The bad part is that the courts seldom question the value judgments that underlie what is “best.”

Get the Story:
Steve Russell: Elders Are Our Strength (Indian Country Today 3/21)

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