Tribal Self-Government and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934

The Indian Reorganization (Wheeler-Howard) Act of 1934 (IRA) was, by all accounts, one of the most significant single pieces of legislation directly affecting Indians ever enacted by the Congress of the United States. It has been “equalled in scope and significance only by the legislation of June 30, 1834, and the General Allotment Act of February 8, 1887.” A major reversal of governmental policy and approach toward Indian affairs was effectuated by the IRA. This Comment will be concerned with the IRA as it affected the concept of tribal self-government, and primarily with those sections providing for adoption of tribal constitutions and organization as chartered business corporations. It will trace the development of tribal self-government through 1934, delve into the Act itself and the objectives behind it, consider whether those objectives have been realized, and suggest a possible role for the IRA and its theory in the future.