ITG FAQ #3 Answer-What are some major acts of Congress with regard to Indian issues?


A quick reference to some key statutes is presented here. The source of the description of the acts is Documents of United States Indian Policy Edited by Francis Paul Prucha. Laws and treaties dealing with Indian tribes and Indian land issues began long before the Dawes Act and extend beyond the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. This is a partial list to illustrate extreme policy changes in the relationship between the Federal government and Indian tribes during the past 100 years.

  • General Allotment Act (Dawes Act) February 8, 1887

    "An act to provide for the allotment of lands in severalty to Indians on the various reservations, and to extend the protection of the laws of the United States and the Territories over the Indians, and for other purposes."

  • Amendment to the Dawes Act, February 28, 1891

    "Four years after its passage, the Dawes Act was amended to provide for equal allotments to all Indians and for the leasing of allotments under certain conditions."

  • Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes (Dawes Commission), March 3, 1893

    "The Five Civilized Tribes of the Indian Territory were excluded from the provisions of the Dawes Act and formed an important enclave of communally held lands. In order to force these Indians into conformity with the policy that called for allotment of Indian lands in severalty, Congress authorized a special commission to negotiate with the tribes for allotment of their lands. This Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes was generally known as the Dawes Commission, since Henry L. Dawes served as its first chairman."

  • Curtis Act - June 28, 1889

    "With the Curtis Act, Congress accomplished by legislation what the Dawes Commission has been unable to do by negotiation - effectively destroy the tribal governments in the Indian Territory. This long and detailed act provided for establishment and regulation of townsites, for management of leases of mineral rights, and for other technical matters. …authorized the Dawes Commission to draw up rolls and allot the lands to Indians on the rolls, prohibited the aggrandizement of lands, and abolished the tribal courts."

  • Burke Act - May 8, 1906

    "The Dawes Act was significantly amended in 1906. Discretion was authorized in the length of the trust period for allotments, and citizenship was to be granted at the end, rather than at the beginning, of the trust period."

  • Lacey Act - March 2, 1907

    "The Dawes Act and the Burke Act provided for the allotment of reservation lands to individual Indians, but they did not affect communally owned trust funds. In 1907, in a bill introduced to Congressman John F. Lacey of Iowa, Congress made provision for the allotment of tribal funds to certain classes of Indians."

  • Wheeler-Howard Act (Indian Reorganization Act) June 18, 1934

    "The culmination of the reform movement of the 1920s led by John Collier was the Wheeler-Howard Act of 1934. This important legislation reversed the policy of allotment and encouraged tribal organization. An Act to conserve and develop Indian lands and resources; to extend to Indians the right to form business and other organizations; to establish a credit system for Indians; to grant certain rights of home rule to Indians; to provide for vocational education for Indians; and for other purposes."

  • Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act - June 26 1936

    "In 1936 Congress extended the principles of the Wheeler-Howard Act to the Indians living in Oklahoma."

  • House Concurrent Resolution 108 - August 1, 1953

    "In the Eighty-third Congress a fundamental change was made in Indian policy. House Concurrent Resolution 108 declared it to be the policy of the United States to abolish federal supervision over the tribes as soon as possible and to subject the Indians to the same laws, privileges, and responsibilities as other citizens of the United States. As a result of this resolution the government began the process of "termination," which aroused strong opposition on the part of the Indians."

  • Civil Rights Act of 1968 - April 11, 1968

    "Titles II-VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 dealt with Indian matters. Most significant was the application of the provisions of the Bill of Rights to Indians in their relations with the tribal governments, the authorization of a model code for courts of Indian offenses, and the requirement that Indian consent be given to assumption by states of jurisdiction over Indian country."

  • Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act - December 18, 1971

    "After long negotiations with the Alaska Natives, the United States provided for settlement of native land claims in Alaska. The act provided for enrollment of natives, the organization of regional corporations of natives, conveyance of lands to the corporations, and deposit of moneys in an Alaska Native Fund. The claims asserted by the natives of Alaska as original owners of the soil had been honored."

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