President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos signed the Panama Canal Treaties of 1977. The treaties provided for an end to US control over the canal by the year 2000, with the US reserving the authority to defend the canal as an internationally used waterway.
The American Indian Religious Freedom Act guaranteed American Indians the “right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions” and allowed the “use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rights.”
The United States and the People’s Republic of China officially established diplomatic relations. The United States declared that it “recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China.”
An accident at a nuclear power plant on Three Mile Island, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, caused the release of radioactive gases. The plant narrowly avoided a meltdown when the reactor was shut down. It was the most serious nuclear power accident in American history and prompted many companies to drop nuclear energy projects.