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INTER-TRIBAL COUNCIL OF THE FIVE CIVILIZED TRIBES

The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes (ITC) had precedent in the 1842 Inter-Tribal Council of the Deep Fork River, the 1861 United Nations of Indian Territory, and the 1866 Okmulgee Council, all of which united the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole nations in joint diplomacy with the U.S. government. These ventures evolved into the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes (ITC) in 1949. Meeting at Muskogee, Oklahoma, in September and October of that year, the tribes' leaders resolved to pledge cooperation "to secure to ourselves and our descendants the rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws of the United States of America and the State of Oklahoma . . . to seek equitable adjustments of tribal affairs; .. . and to . . . promote the common welfare of the American Indians. . . ." The organization approved a constitution on February 3, 1950. Inter-Tribal Council membership includes each principal chief and four members from each nation.

Health care, housing, education, and sovereignty to serve the special cultural, social, and economic needs of all Indians have been the most prevalent issues over the half-century of ITC activity. After congressional recognition, the council's first important accomplishment was to have Congress withdraw House Concurrent Resolution Number 108, which had established a tribal termination policy that was effective in the 1950s and 1960s in dissolving many tribes around the nation and several in Oklahoma. Continued enforcement of termination would effectively strip the various Native peoples of federal assistance. In the 1970s termination policy was about to be applied to the Choctaw Nation. Under pressure from the ITC, Congress withdrew the Choctaw Termination Act in 1971.

Once that had occurred, Congress passed the 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (PL93-638) and approved the popular election of each tribe's principal officers. This necessitated the revision of each nation's constitution. Self-determination and sovereignty affected each tribe's relationships with local, state, and federal authorities, and the ITC took the lead in protecting the nations' rights to federal support. Leading issues for the ITC during the last quarter of the twentieth century encompassed elder care, land and water rights, building tribal hospitals, preserving burial grounds, schools, and historical buildings, implementing courts and law enforcement, tax exemptions for Indian smoke shops, and realignment of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

While invested with greatly enhanced authority and responsibilities, ITC leaders had to find solutions to facilitate improvements of Indian peoples' social and economic conditions. Thus, the council's role included, on one hand, keeping federal and state governments from encroaching on and exploiting Indian affairs, while on the other engaging the governments for equitable appropriations. At the beginning of the twenty-first century this remained the most important task of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes.

SEE ALSO: AMERICAN INDIANS, REPATRIATION, TERMINATION AND RELOCATION.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Sharon F. Mouss, "The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes," in The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, ed. Suzanne Heard (N.p.: Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, 1975). Suzanne Heard, L. David Morris, and Ingrid P. Wesetmoreland, A History of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, 1976-1991 (N.p.: Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, 1991).

Ingrid P. Westmoreland

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