Thomas King Quotes

In the U.S. Articles of Confederation, the federal government gave itself the exclusive right to regulate “the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians.” This power was repeated in the 1790 Trade and Intercourse Act, which further refined “trade” and “affairs” to include the purchase and sale of Indian land. The intent of these two pieces of legislation was clear. Whatever powers states were to have, those powers did not extend to Native peoples.Beginning in 1823, there would be three U.S. Supreme Court decisions—Johnson v. McIntosh, Cherokee v. Georgia, Worcester v. Georgia—that would confirm the powers that the U.S. government had unilaterally taken upon itself and spell out the legal arrangement that tribes were to be allowed.1823. Johnson v. McIntosh. The court decided that private citizens could not purchase land directly from Indians. Since all land in the boundaries of America belonged to the federal government by right of discovery, Native people could sell their land only to the U.S. government. Indians had the right of occupancy, but they did not hold legal title to their lands.1831. Cherokee v. Georgia. The State of Georgia attempted to extend state laws to the Cherokee nation. The Cherokee argued that they were a foreign nation and therefore not subject to the laws of Georgia. The court held that Indian tribes were not sovereign, independent nations but domestic, dependent nations.1832. Worcester v. Georgia. This case was a follow-up to Cherokee v. Georgia. Having determined that the Cherokee were a domestic, dependent nation, the court settled the matter of jurisdiction, ruling that the responsibility to regulate relations with Native nations was the exclusive prerogative of Congress and the federal government.These three cases unilaterally redefined relationships between Whites and Indians in America. Native nations were no longer sovereign nations. Indians were reduced to the status of children and declared wards of the state. And with these decisions, all Indian land within America now belonged to the federal government. While these rulings had legal standing only in the United States, Canada would formalize an identical relationship with Native people a little later in 1876 with the passage of the Indian Act. Now it was official. Indians in all of North America were property.