The early colonists believed that it was part of their destiny to conquer the west and the northern American wilderness but the Indians stood along the way and its God-given destiny (Kline 2000,p.24).
At first, US treated the Indians as sovereign and independent people by negotiating treaties with them but the treaties only ended up with the Indians ceding their lands in return for desolate, barren lands elsewhere. This ended with President James Monroe's declaration that Indians be removed and resettled beyond the Mississippi River for their own best interests (American Philosophical Society 2000,p.65) Thus the Cherokees from Georgia appealed to the Supreme Court to prevent the seizure of their lands.However, Chief Justice John Marshall
declared all Indians as without sovereignty and people who "reside within the acknowledged boundaries of the United States" and are "in a state of pupilage"(Cherokee Nation v Georgia). But he later on declared the Cherokees as a distinct political community "in which the laws of
Georgia can have no force" and into which Georgians are prohibited to enter without treaty permission (Worcester v Georgia). The Supreme Court then declared all Indians to be under the complete control of the US government but ironically, they cannot be citizens as contemplated by the 14th Amendment because they belonged to 'alien nations'(Elk v Wilkins, 1884). As such, all Indians were impounded in assigned reservations to their consternation on the basis of national security and military necessity after they ceded their ancestral lands and were not allowed to leave without a permit. But in one case, the court adjudicated that Indians are entitled to the same legal protection and freedom as the Americans (Standing Bear v Crook, 1879).
The Dawes Act of 1887 or The General Allotment Act
The first idea of Indian citizenship was broached by Thomas Jefferson but he laid down an extensive list of prerequisites prior to giving them citizenship (American Philosophical Society 2000, p.63). He also voiced out his plans to civilize the Indians and slowly assimilate them to the mainstream of American society. He also revealed his plans to give the Indians parcels of land to farm. All these served as impetus for Congress to enact the General Allotment Act or the Dawes Act on February 8,1887. The rationale behind the statute was to civilize and assimilate the Indians