Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research Vol. 13, No. 2, 2003. Copyright © 2003 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


In Worcester v. Georgia (1832), Chief Justice John Marshall declared that Indian tribes should be acknowledged "as nations, ... having territorial boundaries, within which their authority is exclusive .... " Justice John McLean, however, questioned whether Indians would always exercise the power of self-government, suggesting that Indian tribes would "become amalgamated in our political communities."
Justice McLean did not dispute that Indian tribes were sovereign; he questioned whether they would-and should-remain sovereign. Some people continue to raise this question. David Wilkins and Tsianinia Lomawaima, in Uneven Ground, begin with the premise that American Indian tribes remain sovereign nations, but acknowledge that political, historical, and legal developments have constrained tribal sovereignty. The authors note that Indian policy is indeterminate and inconsistent, resting in large part "on a foundation of racism, ethnocentrism, repression of tribal histories, inappropriate policy-making by judicial bodies, and inaccurate historical understandings."