• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that Congress had plenary authority over American Indian affairs and that Indian treaties were subject to unilateral abrogation.

Lone Wolf, one of the principal chiefs of the Kiowa Nation, sought an injunction to block congressional ratification of an agreement allotting tribal lands. He argued that the agreement violated the Treaty of Medicine Lodge of 1867, which required the approval of three-fourths of the adult men of the tribe for any cession of tribal land.Native American treaties;Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock[Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock]

By a 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court rejected Lone Wolf’s claim. Justice Edward D. White’sWhite, Edward D.;Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock[Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock] opinion stated that Congress had exercised total jurisdiction over tribal affairs “from the beginning” and that the Court must presume the “perfect good faith” of the Congress. Observing that Congress had stopped entering into treaties with the tribes, he concluded that congressional modification or abrogation of Indian treaties was not subject to any judicial review. White did not even mention whether the due process principles of the Fifth Amendment applied in the case.

Although Lone Wolf has been called “the Indian’s Dred Scott,” the precedent has never been directly overturned. More recent decisions, however, would suggest that there are significant constitutional limits to congressional power over the tribes. This is especially true in regard to property rights and the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.[case]Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock[Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock]

Crow Dog, Ex parte

Indian Bill of Rights

Native American law

Native American sovereignty

Native American treaties

Property rights

Treaties

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