This Day in History 1955: U.S. Supreme Court Uses Religious Justification to Deny Legitimate Indigenous Property Rights

On this day in history, Feb. 7, 1955, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling based on the Christian Doctrine of Discovery to deny the Tee-Hit-Ton Indians any compensation for the timber the U.S. government allowed to be sold off their lands.

In the ruling Tee-Hit-Ton Indians v. United States, the Court used 15th Century reasoning to exert domination over “an ignorant and dependent race,” treating them not as land owners but as mere tenants. These tenants, the ruling said, are allowed to stay there only “as a matter of grace” by the United States.

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