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Asked • 07/07/19

Was there any genuine debate in the pre-1860 United States regarding Native American sovereignty?

The United States treated Native American tribes as sovereign states. Relations with various tribes were governed by a series of (often broken) treaties. At the same time, however, general territorial claims in North America were resolved between the United States and other powers as if the Native American tribes didn't exist. The Louisiana Purchase wasn't negotiated with the individual tribes living in the Missouri River watershed; it was negotiated with France. Territorial settlements with Great Britain, Russia, and Mexico were negotiated without input from Native Americans occupying the territories in question. Did the US government regard *some* Native Americans as sovereign, and some as not-sovereign? In cases where the Native Americans were not sovereign, why weren't the Native Americans regarded as citizens? Was there any debate about this at all, or were these questions resolved on the ground on an *ad hoc* basis?

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