Indian Reorganization Act

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also known as the Wheeler-Howard Act

From the time of the Revolution forward, several laws were passed that had significant impact on the records of the American Indians. One such law was the Indian Reorganization Act.

This law was passed by the United States Congress on June 18, 1934. The major provision of this Act was to allow the American Indians to locally govern their affairs by a tribal government, established by a constitution and by-laws for each tribe. Within three years of the passage of this act, many of the tribes created their own tribal governments.

The effect of this act was to return to the tribes the management of their own tribal affairs, such as ownership and transfer of title to land, the keeping of records of vital events occurring on the reservations, the establishment of their own police and court systems, and setting the terms of enrollment in their tribe.

Some provisions of the Act were defined as not applying to certain tribes, particularly many in Oklahoma. (See Section 13 of the Act for the specific exclusions.) Section 19 of the Act also defined what is meant by the terms “Indian” and “tribe.”

Indian Reorganization Act