Economic Opportunity Act, which enables tribes to receive federal funds directly, becomes law on August 20, 1964.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 11/10/2004
  • Essay 7090
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On August 20, 1964, the Economic Opportunity Act, which enables tribes to receive federal funding directly, becomes law. The Act, the centerpiece of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, enables various branches of the government to fund the tribes on an equal basis with counties and states. Previously the government provided funds to Indian tribes through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Tribes are now empowered to establish Community Action Agencies (CAAs) to develop programs suited to local needs and to approach other agencies directly for funding. Tribal governments will be invigorated as they organize to apply for and manage community development programs in the areas of health, education, employment, and economic development.

Beginning in June 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act made it possible for tribal governments to organize on a conventional legislative basis, but government support of tribes was funneled through the Bureau of Indian Affairs or (after 1954) the Public Health Service. Other Congressional action encouraged the termination of the recognition of tribes as a means of assimilating Indians into the dominant society. The government lost track of some tribes and some reservations passed into private hands.

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 enabled state, city, county, and tribal governments to apply directly for money for a variety of local programs. The federal government began to treat tribal governments on an equal basis with other political subdivisions. The tribes began to develop mechanisms to apply for and spend monies on programs they had designed. Various government agencies established “Indian desks” (Stuart, 212) to handle tribal requests.

The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, passed in January 1975, made it easier for tribes to exercise their right to self-determination by transferring more services from the BIA and government agencies to the tribes themselves.


Paul H. Stuart, “Government Agencies,” Native America in the Twentieth Century: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing Co., 1996), 210-214; Larry W. Burt, “Termination and Restoration,” Ibid., 221-223; Economic Opportunity Act, Pub. L 88-452, 78 Stat. 508 (1964); Indian Reorganization Act, 25 U.S.C. 461 et seq, 48 Stat. 984 (1934); Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, 25 U.S.C. 450 et seq., Pub. L. 93-638, 88 Stat. 2203 (1975).

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