"Much talk has been made recently of Indian tribes meeting with the administration or Congress, but history shows us that the United States came to see us first.
Like foreign nations, Indian tribes interact with the U.S. on a government-to-government basis. In the beginning, Indian tribes did not seek out the United States, they came to us. The U.S. sought out our Native governments because the new nation wanted to negotiate cessions of land.
The 1778 Treaty with the Delaware Nation gained the Delaware’s permission to have U.S. troops cross their territory and invited the Delaware to form an Indian confederation with other Indian nations “whereof the Delaware Nation shall be the head and have a representation in Congress.” In the same treaty, the U.S. promised to send a representative to reside among the Delaware and manage trade with them.
In Worcester v. Georgia, (1832) Chief Justice Marshall explained the basic principle of mutuality that underlies the treaties. Indian nations did not go to the U.S. asking for treaties, the U.S. came to us:
“When the United States gave peace, did they not also receive it? Were not both parties desirous of it? If we consult the history of the day, does it not inform us that the U.S. was at least as anxious to obtain it as the Cherokees? We may ask, further: Did the Cherokees come to the seat of the American government to solicit peace, or did the American commissioners go to them to obtain it? The treaty was made at Hopewell, not at New York.” Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. 515, 551 (1832)."
Get the Story:
Ernie Stevens: They came to us first
(Indian Country Today 8/28)