The Supreme Court ruling granting tribal sovereignty was issued on this date. It still stands today.
It all started with Samuel Worcester (left) and Elizur Butler, missionaries to the Cherokee. While the Supreme Court debated, they sat in a Georgia jail, sentenced to four years hard labor. Their crime: living on Cherokee lands without a permit, a rule created by Georgia specifically to rid themselves of such missionaries. Worcester had spent the last seven years among the Cherokee, translating the Bible, working with them to create the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper (still published today) and printing press (the Cherokees had a higher literacy rate than the Georgia settlers), and using the courts to fight for Cherokee sovereignty.
In the end, Worcester and Butler offered themselves as bait. They declined their pardons so they could take their case to the US Supreme Court.
The ruling came in Worcester v. Georgia, 31 US (6 Pet.) 515:
“The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, with boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves, or in conformity with treaties and with the acts of Congress.”
Worcester and Butler remained in jail a few more months, until Georgia was good and ready to let them go.