Julie D Freece
20 July 2015
Termination, Relocation and Assimilation
Termination, Relocation and Assimilation; three words used by the United States government to describe programs designed to solve the “Indian problem”. These policies would provide the Indians an escape from impoverished reservations and a chance to live the American Dream. To the Indians, these three words described the incalculable loss of the “old ways” which included their culture, heritage and language. Without the support of their communities, thrust into urban life, many Indians found the experience demoralizing. Despite the unduly positive assertions made by those supporting the ...view middle of the document...
In 1952, the Bureau of Indian Affairs instituted a relocation program to move Indians from reservations to urban areas where there were more job opportunities. The reasons for this were two-fold. First, many of the western politicians were responding to the demands of their business constituents, who saw Indian lands as hindrances to economic development. Indians were not able to develop their lands and so if the Indians were relocated off the reservations, the land would once again be accessible by non-Indians who could then benefit economically from it. Secondly, once assimilated, the tribes would no longer be a financial burden to the government. As part of the territory of the United States and no longer living on sovereign lands, the Indians became taxpayers and would be subject to the same laws and entitled to the same privileges as other U.S. citizens. The Indians were told by the BIA that all services on the reservations such as schools, medical facilities, etc., would be stopped and there would be nothing on the reservations to help them. Thus, the migration began in earnest for many Indians seeking a better opportunity in urban areas.
Indians were given a bus ticket, enough money to subsist on for two weeks and made aware of the job opportunities that were available off the reservation. The BIA frequently sent Indians into areas with high unemployment rates. For roughly twenty years the federal Relocation Program recruited Indians to move from reservations to move to the cities. There was some success among those who chose to relocate. For the majority of the Native Americans however, they traded reservation poverty for urban poverty. Many critics of the program believed the problems the Indians were experiencing: alcoholism, crushing poverty and limited opportunity, were just moved to the cities they now lived in. Without the proper skills or training to obtain jobs, most Indians found themselves to be unemployed, discriminated against, and away from familiar surroundings, without any community support. Many returned home to their reservations.