Native American And The United States

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INTRODUCTION In 1831, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that the fact that the U.S. government had made treaties with various Native American nations in the past did not set precedent for treating said nations as independent, sovereign states. Despite the facts that the United States had made legal treaties with Native Americans numerous times and that U.S. law states that the United States can only make treaties with foreign nations, the Supreme Court decision in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) declared that Native American nations were not sovereign but “domestic dependent” nations, subject to the plenary power of the United States. This abrogation of Cherokee (and, by extension, Native American) sovereignty did not only disrupt treaty rights and legal status; ultimately, when the United States of America negated Native American autonomy, the very identity of Native Americans was disrupted in profound ways. Understanding the identity of Native Americans or any other group is difficult, because there is no single way of outline identity. Rather, identity is a complex concept, the product of a myriad of individual factors. In order to be able to better conceptualize the intricate process by which Native American identity is formed, Tom Holm created the Peoplehood Matrix. According to this diagram, identity is based on four large categories: language, sacred history, place/territory, and ceremonial cycle. Native identity is not based on any one of these factors by itself; rather, identity is formed through the interaction and combination of all four. The 1831 Supreme Court decision (as well as the ideas and the socio-cultural principles which informed said decision) was a declaration that, as far as the United S... ... middle of paper ... ... ruled that Native American Nations were dependent on the United States, and were only as sovereign as the U.S. government felt that they should be. However, the mere fact that the U.S. felt that its laws, not Native laws, were what determined Native American autonomy demonstrates just how little Congress thought of Native American sovereignty. By adapting the policy of treating Native Americans as members of domestic dependent nations, the United States violated Native American self-determination and self-identification. This disruption of identity was pervasive and manifested in all aspects of the Peoplehood Matrix. The Supreme Court ruling of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia did not only mean that Native Americans would be subject to American plenary power, but also that issues which determined their very identities would be subject to the wishes of the United States.
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