• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court ruled that Congress had the power to apply federal criminal statutes to Native Americans within tribal lands.

In Ex parte Crow Dog[case]Crow Dog, Ex parte[Crow Dog, Ex parte] (1883), the Supreme Court decided that tribal law applied to crimes committed by Native Americans in Indian country. Congress reacted by passing the Major Crimes Act in 1885, giving federal courts authority over seven major crimes, including murder, committed by Native Americans against Native Americans. The Court unanimously upheld the statute, applying the principles laid down by Chief Justice John Marshall in Worcester v. Georgia[case]Worcester v. Georgia[Worcester v. Georgia] (1832) to the federal criminal statutes. The Court found that the Worcester principles meant that protection of Native Americans was a national obligation and sustained Congress’s power to legislate. Although the Court found the common-law guardian-ward notion from Worcester appropriate, Congress’s authority derived from the Constitution. Worcester continues to be cited as appropriate law governing Native American affairs.Native American sovereignty;Kagama, United States v.[Kagama, United States v.]

Native American law

Native American sovereignty

Native American treaties

Worcester v. Georgia

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