The History Of American Indian Nations. Ten Things You Should Know

The History Of American Indian Nations. Ten Things You Should Know
Isabel del Rio
Painting by Frederic Sackrider Remington

Painting by Frederic Sackrider Remington

The History Of American Indian Nations. The native American people were living on North American for many years (around 150000 BC) before they were discovered by Europeans. It’s estimated that there were over 10 million Native Americans living on the continent.

Afterwards, Indian land was took by the British or Dutch governments for its American colonies under the policies of acquisition (the legendary Dutch purchase of Manhattan in 1626) or conquest. Another policy was to treat the Indian nations as separate societies.

Winning independence from British rule in 1783, the United States and its state governments followed the same dominant policy, acquiring Indian land for settlers and miners.

Painting by Frederic Sackrider Remington

Painting by Frederic Sackrider Remington

In 1787 the Constitution gave Congress, in the Commerce Clause, power to regulate commerce “with the Indian tribes.” This was understood to give Congress supreme power over tribes.

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Thus, Georgia passed laws claiming power to govern Cherokee lands. Former Attorney General William Wirt, since Cherokees were not American citizens, decided to file an original bill in the U.S. Supreme Court claiming to be a foreign nation and seeking judicial enforcement of the Cherokees’ treaties with the United States.

In 1832, the Supreme Court gave the Cherokee Nation an enforceable right to self-government within tribal territory, “in which the laws of Georgia can have no force.”

For the Cherokees, this was a victory. However three years later, most of the Cherokees suffered the scandalous Trail of Tears to Oklahoma.

Painting by Frederic Sackrider Remington

Painting by Frederic Sackrider Remington

The Trail of Tears was a series of forced re-locations of Native American people in the United States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Then, Indian people moved from their ancestral homelands in the southeastern US to an area west of the Mississippi River that had been designated as Indian Territory. Approximately 2,000-6,000 of the 16,543 relocated Cherokee perished along the way.

Federal officials deemed status as a tribal Indian to be irreconcilable with American citizenship. However in 1890, Congress allowed residents of Oklahoma Territories to become citizens without renouncing tribal ties. And a 1924 statute made citizens of all other Native Americans, again without relinquishing tribal relations.

Reservation sovereignty today. Within tribal territory, Indian authority over tribal members is comparable to that of state governments, which it displaces. However they lack jurisdiction over non-Indians in tribal territory, a source of discontent that Native American people seek to change.

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Isabel del Rio

Managing Editor at Yareah® Magazine. Author of ‘Ariza’ (2008) and ‘The Girls of Oil’ (2010)

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