In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized the president to grant the Indians unsettled lands west of the Mississippi River in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders.
The U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall addressed the Indian lands question in two cases: Cherokee Nation v. Georgia in 1831 and Worcester v. Georgia in 1832. Both cases addressed Georgia’s attempt to assert its jurisdiction over Cherokee land within the state that was protected by federal treaty.
The Court considered the following question: Does a state have the power to pass laws concerning sovereign Indian nations?
Speaking through Chief Justice John Marshall, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Worcester and the Cherokees. The Court reasoned that the Cherokee nation was “a distinct community” with “self-government” in which the laws of Georgia had no force. Marshall wrote that the citizens of Georgia had no right to enter Cherokee land without permission of the Cherokees themselves, or in conformity with treaties, and with the acts of Congress.” All interaction between the United States and the Cherokee nation was granted to the U.S. government.
Source: Worcester v. Georgia
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