Helms School of Government
Primary Subject Area
Law; History, United States
native americans, sovereignty, tribal law, cherokee
Constitutional Law | Indian and Aboriginal Law
The history of the Cherokee people with the advent of white settlers in North America is a sad one. Long before Christopher Columbus set foot in the ‘new world’ the Cherokee people were free to live and conduct their relations with each other and with other tribes as they saw fit. With the emergence of foreign hegemony over Native soil followed the suppression and eventual removal of the Cherokee people from their homeland where they had resided for hundreds of years to a reserved area where they would be out of the way of white progression. This thesis proposes to demonstrate how the United States government has unjustly treated the Cherokee Nation by ignoring the original meaning of the Constitution, manipulating and nullifying the many treaties made with the Nation, and treating the Cherokees themselves as if they were less than human. These issues turn on the question of sovereignty which stems directly from an application of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Unfortunately, however, the meaning of the Commerce Clause and its subsequent impact on tribal sovereignty has been allowed to change throughout Cherokee history. This thesis will discuss the Cherokees’ early relations with the European and United States government, fight against removal in the Supreme Court, eventual forced removal to Indian Territory, effect of the Civil War, and struggle to resist the federal government’s goal to twist the Commerce Clause and various treaties in order to greatly diminish the Cherokees’ rights as a sovereign nation.