The arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 caused a marked change in the course of Native American history. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, subsequent European invaders justified removal of Natives based on beliefs of religious and cultural superiority. After American independence and the end of colonial rule, the nation soon turned its eyes westward for expansion. George Washington, the first president, believed his soldiers should be granted westward lands to combat the Savages, and check their incursions (Miller).
At this time, federal policy complicit with the ideals of Manifest Destiny had begun. Though Washington tried to negotiate boundaries with Natives through treaties, the floodgates for newly freed Americans were now opened, and unwelcome settling of Native lands planted the seeds for military conflict which would last until Native defeat in the late 1800s. Some Natives fought in defense of the new threat and believed in maintaining absolute sovereignty, while others chose partial assimilation or the dissolution of tribal identity entirely. Until Nixon's 1970 speech urging the Native right to self determination, American policy towards Native Americans had been one of forced assimilation, peaceful acquisition of lands through compensation, and direct removal of Natives from tribal lands with rare and usually smothered beneficial defenses of Native sovereignty.
[...] McIntosh, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that Native American lands could only be purchased by the federal government, not by individuals. This decision affirmed Native sovereignty in the sense that tribes were not merely collections of individuals but a functioning organic body. However, Chief Justice concludes that Native rights to their land stem from a “right of occupancy,” which can only be inferior to the American “right of discovery” ("Indian Removal"). In essence, John Marshall believed federal superiority over tribal sovereignty stemmed from an inherent ability of discoverers of an already occupied land to assume control. [...]
[...] Three distinct positions are evident in the course of history between Natives and the federal government. One position consisted of viewing Native American tribes as “domestic dependent nations,” or bodies not granted the full rights of a foreign nation but only certain rights which allow a measured degree of autonomy. John Marshall provided some lasting provisions of “domestic dependent nations” in his decision regarding Cherokee Nation v. Georgia: “They occupy a territory to which we assert a title independent of their will, which must take effect in point of possession when their right of possession ceases. [...]
[...] Though assimilated tribes did indeed wish for sovereignty, they believed assimilation and alignment with federal wishes were necessary evils in the broader picture of preventing unwanted loss of life and hardship. Warring tribes saw sovereignty as an issue without compromise, but their defeat militarily only gave rise to new legislative struggles for rights. To these Natives, tribes were independent nations of the land, beholden to no higher power. The 19th century saw some of the most pivotal Supreme Court rulings and Congressional legislation for both sides of the aisle, but prevailing American beliefs of Native inferiority governed a time period of diminishing Native sovereignty. [...]
[...] Some chose to abandon old tribal values in order to adapt in an increasingly volatile situation; while others fought for their lands and people through militaristic means. Laws which guaranteed certain rights of sovereignty at one time could be overturned or rendered moot by laws at another. The landscape of political rhetoric surrounding Native sovereignty presents a site of human discourse characterized by arguments as old as colonial times. Works Cited Long History of Treaties." NebraskaStudies.Org. Web Oct "Cherokee Nation v. State of Georgia." Virtual Library. Web Oct D'Errico, Peter. "SOVEREIGNTY - in the Context of U.S. [...]
[...] "Indian Law"" University of Massachusetts Amherst. Web Oct "Indian Removal." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web Oct "Indian Reorganization Act" Encyclopedia - Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Web Oct Johnson v. McIntosh. Supreme Court. www.columbia.edu. Columbia University. Web Oct "Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law." The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law A Multimedia Archive of the Supreme Court of the United States. [...]
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