What Is the Significance of Worcester V. Georgia?

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Worcester v. Georgia (1832) found that statutory jurisdiction of native lands was the sole right of the federal government, according to Touro College Law Center. This was a significant case for federalism, which held that states did not have the power to pass laws governing Native Americans.

The case of Worcester v. Georgia was the last of three cases involving tribal sovereignty under the Marshall Court, as explained by the American Bar Association. In a time of political upheaval regarding tribal sovereignty during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the U.S. Supreme Court issued three rulings narrowing power over tribal lands. The U.S. Supreme Court found that the only two entities with the power to create laws involving tribal lands included the tribe itself and the federal government. Native Americans living on tribal lands did not have to pay state taxes or abide by state law.

The Georgia legislature passed a law requiring non-Native Americans on tribal lands to acquire a license. Two missionaries refused to obtain a license and lived on Cherokee land in Georgia, Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute notes. The state arrested them and found them in violation of state law. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a writ of error stating the opinion of the court from the precedence of two previous tribal sovereignty cases.