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Cherokee Nation v. Georgia

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Cherokee Nation v. Georgia

Cherokee Nation v. Georgia
Decided March 18, 1831
Full case name The Cherokee Nation v. The State of Georgia
Citations 30 U.S. 1 (more)
8 L. Ed. 25; 1831 U.S. LEXIS 337
Prior history Original jurisdiction
The Supreme Court does not have original jurisdiction to hear a suit brought by the Cherokee Nation, which is not a "foreign State" within the meaning of Article III
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Marshall, joined by McLean
Concurrence Johnson
Concurrence Baldwin
Dissent Thompson, joined by Story
Laws applied
U.S. Const. art. III

Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 original jurisdiction in the matter, as the Cherokee was a dependent nation, with a relationship to the United States like that of a "ward to its guardian."


  • Background 1
    • History 1.1
    • Cherokee Nation 1.2
    • State of Georgia 1.3
  • The case 2
  • Aftermath 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8



Cherokee lands in 1830


  • Works related to Cherokee Nation v. Georgia at Wikisource
  • Text of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 U.S. 1 (1831) is available from:  Findlaw  Justia 

External links

  • Anton-Herman Chroust, "Did President Andrew Jackson Actually Threaten the Supreme Court of the United States with Non-enforcement of Its Injunction Against the State of Georgia?," 4 Am. J. Legal Hist. 77 (1960).
  • Kenneth W. Treacy, "Another View on Wirt in Cherokee Nation", 5 Am. J. Legal Hist. 385 (1961).
  • “The Cherokee Nation Vs. The State Of Georgia." Cherokee Nation Vs. The State Of Georgia (2009): 1. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 20 February 2012.
  • Cherokee Nation v. Georgia." Great American Court Cases. Ed. Mark Mikula and L. Mpho Mabunda. Vol. 4: Business and Government. Detroit: Gale, 1999. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 20 February 2012.

Further reading

  1. ^ Robert J. Conley, The Cherokee Nation: A History 18-19 (2005); Russell Thornton, C. Matthew Snipp, & Nancy Breen, The Cherokees: A Population History 10-11 (1992).
  2. ^ Conley, supra at 21-22; Thornton, supra at 19.
  3. ^ Grace Steele Woodward, The Cherokees 34 (1963); Conley, supra at 26.
  4. ^ Conley, supra at 41.
  5. ^ Conley, supra at 40-41.
  6. ^ Woodward, supra at 48.
  7. ^ 2 Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties 8 (Charles J. Kappler, ed. 1904); Emmet Starr, History of the Cherokee Indians and their Legends and Folklore 35 (1922).
  8. ^ Treaty with the Cherokee 1785, Nov. 28, 1785, 7 Stat. 18
  9. ^ 2 Indian Affairs, supra at 29.
  10. ^ Treaty with the Cherokee of 1791, July 2, 1791, 7 Stat. 39.
  11. ^ Rachel Caroline Eaton, John Ross and the Cherokee Indians 7 (1914).
  12. ^ Cherokee Removal: Before and After xi (William L. Anderson, ed. 1992).
  13. ^ Eaton, supra at 21.
  14. ^ Eaton, supra at 22.
  15. ^ William G. McLoughlin, Cherokee Ghost Dance: Essays on the Southeastern Indians, 1789-1861 74-76 (1984); Eaton, supra at 17.
  16. ^ Eaton, supra at 20.
  17. ^ Treaty with the Cherokee of 1817, July 8, 1817, 7 Stat. 156
  18. ^ 2 Indian Affairs, supra at 140.
  19. ^ Eaton, supra at 29-31.
  20. ^ Starr, supra at 39.
  21. ^ Eaton, supra at 35-36.
  22. ^ Bryan H. Wildenthal, Native American Sovereignty on Trial: A Handbook With Cases, Laws, and Documents 36 (2003).
  23. ^ Eaton, supra at 39.
  24. ^ Eaton, supra at 39.
  25. ^ Eaton, supra at 40-41.
  26. ^ Eaton, supra at 42-46.
  27. ^ Wilkinson, C. (1988). American Indians, Time, and the Law: Native Societies in a Modern Constitutional Democracy, Yale University Press
  28. ^ Cherokee Nation v Georgia 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1 (1831) at 190.
  29. ^ Cherokee Nation v Georgia 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1 (1831) at 216-217.
  30. ^ Cherokee Nation v Georgia 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1 (1831) at 232.
  31. ^ Cherokee Nation v Georgia 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1 (1831) at 233-234.
  32. ^ "Worcester v. Georgia." Oyez. Accessed 03 Aug. 2014.
  33. ^ "The Trail of Tears." Accessed 15 Oct. 2012.


  1. ^ At the same time, the tribe began to move from autonomous villages and towns, to a more centralized government.[4]
  2. ^ This was the Treaty of Hopewell, which provided that whites could not settle on Indian land, and included the right to send a delegate to Congress.[7]
  3. ^ The treaty provided that the Cherokee would be under the protection of the United States, land boundaries would be established, that the Cherokee land would be protected from settlement and under their own government, that crimes committed against the Cherokee would be punished according to Cherokee law, and the tribe would hand over (extradite) criminals to the United States.[9]
  4. ^ By 1809 the tribe had a permanent police force, in 1817 the tribe had established a bicameral legislature, and by 1827 they had a written constitution and court.[15]
  5. ^ Most of the tribe was opposed to removal, and within a few years had successfully petitioned the federal government to prevent it.[19]
  6. ^ The commissioners, working through a Creek Indian chief, offered to give each Cherokee leader $2,000, equivalent to $38,328 in 2012. The chiefs rejected the bribe by denouncing it in front of the tribal council.[26]


See also

President Andrew Jackson refused to uphold the ruling of this case, and directed the expulsion of the Cherokee nation. US Army forces were used in some cases to round them up. Their relocation and route is called the “The Trail of Tears.” Of the 15,000 who left, 4000 died on the journey to “Indian Territory” in the present-day state of Oklahoma.[33]

[32] One year later, however, in


Justice [30] and the injury to the Cherokee was severe enough to justify an injunction against the further execution of the state laws.[31]

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that "the relationship of the tribes to the United States resembles that of a ‘ward to its guardian'."[27] Justice William Johnson added that the "law of nations" would regard "Indian tribes" as "nothing more than wandering hordes, held together only by ties of blood and habit, and having neither laws or government beyond what is required in a savage state."[28]

The Court did hear the case but declined to rule on the merits. The Court determined that the framers of the Constitution did not really consider the Indian Tribes as foreign nations but more as "domestic dependent nation[s]" and consequently the Cherokee Nation lacked the standing to sue as a "foreign" nation. Chief Justice Marshall said; "The court has bestowed its best attention on this question, and, after mature deliberation, the majority is of the opinion that an Indian tribe or nation within the United States is not a foreign state in the sense of the constitution, and cannot maintain an action in the courts of the United States." [Cherokee Nation v. State of Georgia, 30 U.S. 1 (1831)] The Court held open the possibility that it yet might rule in favor of the Cherokee "in a proper case with proper parties".

In June 1830, a delegation of Cherokee led by void all Georgia laws extended over Cherokee lands on the grounds that they violated the U.S. Constitution, United States-Cherokee treaties, and United States intercourse laws.

The case

When Ross and the Cherokee delegation failed to protect Cherokee lands through negotiation with the executive branch and through petitions to Congress, Ross challenged the actions of the federal government through the U.S. courts.

Ross found support in Congress from individuals in the Indian Removal Act, which authorized the president to set aside lands west of the Mississippi River to exchange for the lands of Indian nations in the east.

On December 20, 1828, the state legislature of Georgia, fearful that the United States would not enforce (as a matter of Federal policy) the removal of the President Jackson, Ross wrote an immediate memorial to Congress, completely forgoing the customary correspondence and petitions to the President.

By 1823, the state government and citizens of Georgia began to agitate for the removal of the Cherokee Nation, in accordance with the agreements of 1802 with the federal government.[23] Congress responded by appropriating $30,000 to extinguish Cherokee title to land in Georgia.[24] In the fall of 1823, negotiators for the United States met with the Cherokee National Council at the tribe's capital city of Joseph McMinn, noted for being for removal, led the U.S. delegation.[25] When the negotiations to remove the tribe did not go well, the U.S. delegation resorted to trying to bribe the tribe's leaders.[fn 6]

State of Georgia

In 1817, the Treaty of the Cherokee Agency[17] began the start of the Indian removal era for the Cherokee.[18] The treaty promised an "acre for acre" land trade, if the Cherokee would leave their homeland and move to areas west of the Mississippi River.[fn 5][20] In 1819, the tribal government passed a law prohibiting any additional land cessions, providing for the death penalty for violation of the statute.[21] By the 1820s, most of the Cherokee had adopted a farming lifestyle similar to that of neighboring European Americans.[22]

Congress voted very small appropriations to support the removal, but policy changed under President James Monroe, who did not favor large-scale removal.[14] At the same time, the Cherokee were adopting some elements from European-American culture.[fn 4] During this period until 1816, numerous other treaties were signed by the Cherokee. In each they ceded land to the United States and allowed for roads to be constructed through Cherokee territory, but also kept the terms of the Holston treaty.[16]

At the turn of the century, the Cherokee still possessed about 53,000 square miles (140,000 km2) of land in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.[11] In the meantime, white settlers eager for new lands urged the removal of the Cherokee and the opening of their remaining lands to settlement, pursuant to the promise made by the United States in 1802 to the State of Georgia.[12] President Thomas Jefferson also began to look at removing the tribe from their lands at this time.[13]

Cherokee Nation

[10][fn 3] for the United States.William Blount was signed by Cherokee leaders and Treaty of Holston In 1791 the [8][fn 2] After a war with the colonists, the Cherokee signed a peace treaty in 1785.[6] In 1775, one Cherokee village was described as having 100 houses, each with a garden, orchard, hothouse, and hog pens.[5][fn 1]

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