Fletcher v. Peck, 10 US 87 (1810)

Excerpts:

“What is Indian title?  It is a mere occupancy for the purpose of hunting.  It is not like our tenures, they have no idea of a title to the soil itself.  It is overrun by them, rather than inhabited.  It is not a true and legal possession.  It is a right not to be transferred, but extinguished.

The Europeans found the territory in possession of a rude and uncivilized people, consisting of separate and independent nations.  They had no idea of property in the soil, but a right of occupation.  A right not individual but national.  This is the right gained by conquest.  The Europeans always claimed and exercised the right of conquest over the land.”

Read the full decision at Cornell Legal Information Institute

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