An Indian reservation is a piece of land in the United States designated as federal territory and managed by a Native American tribal council. Many reservations are not the ancestral land of the tribe that inhabits them, as Indians were forcibly moved to undesirable lands throughout the 19th century. There are around 300 overall, covering 55.7 million acres (225,410 square km) total, or about 2.3% of the entire United States. Well over 200 of the country's recognized Native American tribes do not have a reservation, and a small majority of Native Americans live outside of reservations.
The first Indian reservations were created in modern-day Oklahoma under the Indian Appropriations Act of 1851. While the purported goal of the act was to protect Indians from the encroachment of whites, in reality, the Oklahoma reservations began to shrink as whites moved west. President Ulysses S. Grant, who served from 1869 to 1877, stepped up the creation of reservations, relocating many tribes and placing religious officials in charge of the territories in an effort to "civilize" and Christianize Native Americans. Many of the new reservations were not amenable to traditional farming methods, leading to severe malnutrition. While the U.S. government promised many tribes a stipend in return for living in these designated areas, they did not always follow through.
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Native Americans put up significant resistance to Grant's policy, while whites on the frontier often objected that the reservation lands were too large, prompting the government to reduce their size. Many Native Americans were forcibly relocated, and bloody wars resulted. The United States Army was brought into the frontier to control Indian tribes. By the end of Grant's time in office, his Native American policies were considered a failure, and Rutherford B. Hayes, his successor, began phasing them out.
In 1887, the Dawes Act instituted a policy of giving parcels of land to individual Native Americans, rather than to tribes as a whole. "Excess" land could then be given to whites. This policy was halted in 1934 by Franklin D. Roosevelt's Indian Reorganization Act, which heralded a return to tribal ownership of lands, increased the amount of total Indian reservation land in the country, and included government investment in education, health care, and infrastructure within the reservations. Some tribes were also relocated as a result of the act, and 61 tribal nations were dismantled.
The quality of life on a typical reservation is extremely poor, similar to that of developing countries. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service are the two federal government organizations that interact with tribal leaders. Many reservations now have casinos to attract tourists and draw in revenue. The right of Native American tribes to run a casino on an Indian reservation was established in 1987 in the California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians case and formally recognized in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.