Going back to the rights of discovery and conquest, the Supreme Court upheld the U.S. government’s ultimate authority to extinguish title of occupancy and to convey title in the soil.
In 1775 William Johnson purchased land in Illinois from the Piankeshaw tribe, but Virginia in 1783 conveyed the land to the federal government for the public domain. In 1818 William McIntosh purchased part of this Illinois land from the federal government, but the Johnson family claimed to be the legitimate owner. By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of McIntosh, and held that the tribe had not possessed an absolute right to sell its land.
Writing for the Court, Chief Justice John Marshall
Benton v. Maryland
Native American law
Native American sovereignty