Justice Paints Cherokees, Supreme Court as Allies

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Cherokee tribe won a legal victory in the 19th century that paved the way for a more powerful constitutional system, but they lost the war to retain their land in Georgia, a U.S. Supreme Court justice said.

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer linked the tribe's landmark court victory in 1832 and reactions from then-President Andrew Jackson and Georgia officials to a decision 125 years later to send in federal troops to protect black children entering an all-white school.

"Perhaps that experience can help us understand our own responsibility to preserve and to pass on the traditions, habits and expectations of behavior that underlie our modern system, creating the freedom we enjoy, not just on paper, but in reality," Breyer said in a speech to members of the Supreme Court Historical Society.

"If so, a dangerous episode in the court's history, and a tragic story in the history of the Cherokee Tribe, at last may help others whose basic liberties are threatened."

Delivered in the court's chamber, where cases are heard and opinions announced, the speech marked the 25th annual lecture of the society.

Breyer's lecture spanned Cherokee history, beginning with the tribe's support of the British during the Revolutionary War to its subsequent treaties with the United States in which the federal government promised to protect Cherokee land and guarantee its boundaries and the legal and military moves against the tribe by the state of Georgia. …

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