"The source of the sovereignty of Native nations is found in the spirit of our people, stretching back to the dawn of time, when our nations were founded as the original governments of America. Our Native nations are based upon traditions of respect and caring for the people, men and women, elders and children, and a vision for our future generations. We are the first democracies.
The United States, from its earliest days, recognized that Indian nations are sovereigns in our own right, with a prior and treaty-protected right to our lands and a guarantee of tribal self-government. This historic acknowledgment of Native nations and our human rights as tribal citizens find expression in the Constitution and treaties ratified in pursuance thereof.
During the American Revolution, the United States entered its first treaty with an Indian nation. In the Delaware Nation Treaty of 1778, the United States pledged “perpetual peace and friendship” in return for material war assistance from the Delaware Nation in the form of “corn, meat, and horses,” “expert warriors,” “free passage” through Delaware territory, and permission to establish forts to protect the Americans “in a just and necessary war, in defence and support of life, liberty and independence, against the King of England.” The United States “guarantee[d]” to the Delaware Nation “all their territorial rights in the fullest and most ample manner.”
In 1789, the Constitution of the United States was ratified against the background of the early treaty-making with Indian nations, providing in Article VI that: All Treaties made, or which shall be made. … shall be the Supreme Law of the Land. …. As Georgia sought to steal Cherokee lands a generation later, Chief Justice Marshall explained the full meaning and importance of the Treaty Clause in Indian affairs:"
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Steve Emery: Native sovereigns, treaties and the constitution
(Indian Country Today 4/10)