After the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934 had ended allotment, tribal self-governance began to be emphasized in federal policy. It seemed that tribes and the US government were finally making progress towards the genuine promotion of tribal self-determination and sovereignty.
However, many in the federal government were still under the impression that the progress of Native Americans meant their assimilation into mainstream society. This persistent idea, combined with concerns about reducing federal spending and land claims payouts, resulted in a push Congress to withdraw the federal government from the affairs of Indian tribes beginning in 1946.
However, to withdraw the federal government from Indian affairs did not just necessitate the withdrawal of paternalistic supervision over tribes. To “set the Indians free” (in the words of some termination supporters) required the termination of their tribal status, or, to put it another way, dissolve their identity as Indian tribes in the eyes of the federal government and end the federal-tribal trust relationship. This meant cutting social services to tribes and authorizing the sale and lease of restricted Indian lands to non-Indian individuals and corporations.
Approximately 109 tribes and bands were terminated and 1,365,801 acres of Indian land was taken by the time the policy officially died in 1970 when President Nixon asked for its repeal. In the Pacific Northwest, the Klamath, then a tribe of 2,133 people, lost 862,662 acres, the single largest amount of land lost during termination.