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Major Recent Acts of Congress Concerning Native Americans

The period of Native American self-determination began in 1968 with the Indian Civil Rights Act, which, in a nutshell, guaranteed Bill of Rights protections — freedom of speech, religion, the press, the right of assembly, the right to petition for grievances, due process, equal protection, and so forth — to Indians. Prior to this act, Native Americans were not legally guaranteed these rights.

Here are some of the other important recent Congressional acts pertaining to Indians.

  • The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (1975): This act essentially allowed tribes to create, with federal funds, their own schools, over which they had total jurisdiction. This was notable because, for the first time, Native Americans had complete control over their children's education. The first schools to take advantage of the act were the Rock Point and Rough Rock schools in Arizona.
  • The Indian Health Care Improvement Act (1978): This act provided healthcare for American Indians and Alaska Natives. It was overseen by the Indian Health Service under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This act expired on September 30, 2000, and was extended through 2001. In 2005, Senator John McCain of Arizona sponsored an amended bill to reinstate this act, but it hasn't yet been put to a vote.
  • The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978): This act resolved certain conflicts between Indian religious beliefs and practices and federal laws that restricted the exercise of Indian beliefs, including the use of sacred lands and artifacts like eagle feathers.
  • The Indian Child Welfare Act (1978): This act gave tribal courts jurisdiction over Native American children living on reservations.
  • The Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (1990): This act made it a government responsibility to return to culturally affiliated federally recognized tribes human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony that have been found on public lands, during activities that use federal funds, or that have been curated in facilities that receive federal funding.
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