Cherokee Nation v. Georgia Questions and Answers

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In 1831, the Supreme Court handed down a decision about the forcible movement of natives.  What did they say?  

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Michael Koren eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In 1831, the Supreme Court issued a ruling dealing with the forcible relocation of Native American tribes living in Georgia. Georgia had begun to forcibly remove Native Americans from the land on which they lived. In the case of Cherokee Nation v Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee tribe was not a foreign nation. As a result, Article III of the Constitution, which would allow the Supreme Court to hear a case involving a foreign country and a state, didn’t apply to this situation. As a result, the Supreme Court dismissed the case because it didn’t have the jurisdiction to hear the case. The state of Georgia was able to continue with its plans to relocate Native American tribes.

In 1832, in the case of Worcester v Georgia, the Supreme Court issued a very different ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee was a separate nation. As a result, the laws of Georgia didn’t apply to the Cherokee. This meant that Georgia could no longer force the Cherokee tribe to relocate. The Cherokee hoped this decision would stop the forcible removal of Native American tribes. However, President Jackson refused to enforce this decision, and the removal of Native American tribes, including the Cherokee tribe, eventually resumed.

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Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In 1831, the Supreme Court heard the case Cherokee Nation v. Georgia. In the late 1820s, the state of Georgia began to take away the rights of Native Americans and to move them off their lands in a process referred to as "Indian removal." In response, the Cherokee argued that they had negotiated treaties with the U.S. federal government that had granted them the rights to these lands. The Cherokee brought this case to the Supreme Court to stop the state of Georgia from removing them from their land.

However, in this case, the Supreme Court ruled that the court did not have the jurisdiction, or legal right, to hear this case. While the court sympathized with the suffering of the Cherokees, the court under Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Cherokee were both an foreign nation, separate from the U.S., and a people dependent on the U.S. government. The U.S. government could negotiate treaties with independent nations but not with Indian nations such as the Cherokee.

However, in 1832, in the case Worcester v. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee were a separate, independent nation with a right to retain their lands. The Cherokee hoped this second decision would cause the federal government to intervene to stop Indian removal carried out by the state of Georgia, but President Jackson did not enforce the court's decision and allowed Georgia to continue the policy of Indian removal. 

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