The Adaption and Complications of the Indian Reorganization Act Tribal Governments

The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934, passed by the U.S. Congress, completely changed the course of American Indian history. Before White contact, Indian tribes organized and governed themselves in a manner of their choosing. The U.S. Supreme Court defined future interaction between the U.S. government and Indian tribes by classifying Indian tribes as domestic dependent nations with inherent rights to limited sovereignty and self-government. After the passage of the IRA, Indian tribes had to govern themselves as a bureaucracy with totalitarian supervision by the Office of Indian Affairs. The limitations of the IRA tribal bureaucracy caused factions within politically opposed groups in many Indian tribes. The history and accounts before the IRA, the Indian reform era leading to the passage of the IRA, and subsequent failures of IRA tribal governments will be further analyzed. The IRA government model, including the election process, constitution, judicial, executive, and legislative powers are also examined. Modern problems facing Indian tribes in re­organization are reviewed in accordance with the systems of patronage associated with bureaucratic tribal government models. Recommendations for IRA constitutional reform and a return to cultural match for tribal governments are suggested as possible solutions to the dilemma of bureaucratic tribal governments.


John Shiffer


Rob Williams





Arizona State Museum: 

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College of Social and Behavioral Sciences