Whose deal? : Burton K. Wheeler and the Indian Reorganization Act

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana upheld the long-standing U. S. government policy of assimilating American Indians into the dominant populace. As a Progressive, he believed the "Indian Reorganization" bill he introduced in Congress in 1934 to permit limited self-government for reservation communities would assist Native Americans in becoming prosperous, self-sufficient members of the United States political economy. Within three years, however, Wheeler sought repeal of the act, asserting that the Indian Reorganization Act had encouraged the expansion of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and thereby subverted the efforts of American Indians to achieve independence from federal oversight. Wheeler further argued that the increased administrative influence exercised by Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier betrayed both the intent of the legislation and Indian people as well. Wheeler's steadfast opposition to the Indian Reorganization Act demonstrated his commitment to representative government and contrasted with the non-representative policies administered by the Indian Bureau.




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