A Moment in History: Repeal of the Termination Act of 1953

Published August 22, 2022

By Chief Gary Batton


Last month we celebrated the first anniversary of our Choctaw Cultural Center grand opening and the expansion of the Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant. August, however, has provided me with a time to reflect on a moment in history.

On August 24, 1970, then President Richard Nixon repealed the Termination Act of 1953. The Termination Act of 1953 was intended to dismantle the reservation system, to transfer the natural resource wealth of the reservations to private non-Indian corporations, and to place Indians at the mercy of local, state, and county governments. While Choctaw Nation was one of the tribes slated for termination, our history with it differed from the other tribes.

In the years since Oklahoma statehood, Choctaws were increasingly frustrated by the challenges created by having to deal with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). This led Choctaw community members and local leaders to call for an end to the Choctaw-BIA relationship. Choctaws wanted to be able to make decisions on their own. The Bureau of Indian Affairs interpreted this critique as a desire for termination and helped draft termination legislation. In 1959, the United States Congress passed the Choctaw Termination Act.

When Choctaw community members heard about this, they quickly organized against Choctaw Termination. This movement encouraged many Choctaws to become politically active and involved in Choctaw government. Their advocacy ultimately resulted in the repeal of the Choctaw Termination Act in 1970. This also laid a foundation for a reinvigoration of our Choctaw government.

It was 63 years ago when the Termination Act went into effect. It has been 52 years since the Act was repealed. And today, in 2022, the Termination Act Repeal along with the McGirt decision has helped us to preserve our culture and sovereignty, while creating future economic opportunities for our tribal members!

I am so proud of our Choctaw ancestors, our tvshka (warriors) for remaining resilient during such a time as this. It’s important for us to reflect on history, and the events that have transpired, because it makes us appreciate the bright journey we have before us.

Yakoke and God bless!