"A Distinct Community"

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A Georgia court convicted Samuel Worcester of settling in Cherokee Nation territory without obtaining a state license. Worcester appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned the decision in 1832. The court also laid down guiding principles on the relationship between Native American tribes, states, and the nation. John Marshall described the Cherokee Nation as “a distinct community” over which “the laws of Georgia have no force… [except] with the assent of the Cherokees themselves…” The ruling thus accorded Native American tribes important elements of sovereignty, which have been reinforced in hundreds of cases since that time. Yet the ruling did not protect the Cherokees and other Native American tribes from oppression. Perhaps best known to Georgians is the forced removal of Native Americans from the state on the infamous “Trail of Tears.”


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