What are the ramifications of the Lone Wolf v Hitchcock Supreme Court Decision?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The largest implication of the case was the establishment of Congressional "plenary power."  This concept gave Congress "full" power in being able to abrogate and abandon the treaties negotiated with Native American tribes.  The court essentially gave the "green light" to Congress in being able to annex Native American lands and territories.  While the treaties negotiated with Native Americans helped to provide some level of comfort and security that would stop expansion upon their territories.  In the Lone Wolf case, the Court rendered a decision that would allow Westward Expansion to become synonymous with overtaking Native American territories.  The Court also argued that the concept of "Native American" lands was an illusory one in that the territories were "wards of the nation," helping to bring out the idea that expansion was inevitably going to "help" Native Americans, as opposed to protecting any sense of their autonomy.

lprono eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The ruling maintained that Congress could unilaterally (i.e. without consulting Native Americans or other federal authorities) abrogate treaties between the United States and Native American tribes because of its inherent "plenary power". The ruling identified that main authority to deal with Native Americans had been Congress from the beginning and that, therefore, the initiatives of Congress in that field were not subject to control by the judicial department of the government. The main consequence of the Lone Wolf v Hitchcock Supreme Court decision was to reduce the autonomy of Native American tribes and encourage the unilateral modifications of the Treaties with Native American tribes.