Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Worcester v. Georgia

Cherokee Sovereignty and Actions of the U.S. Government

Sarah Brewer | Published: May 31st, 2022 by K20 Center

Summary

Students will analyze the "Worcester v. Georgia" United States Supreme Court case, then work together to summarize and categorize actions that protected the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation or undermined it. To extend knowledge, students will watch a video of a judge discussing the powers of the judicial branch, then students will participate in a Four Corners activity evaluating President Jackson's decision to ignore the Supreme Court's ruling in "Worcester v. Georgia." Finally, students will revisit the activity from the beginning of the lesson and create a paragraph summary of what they learned, using important terms from the lesson.

Essential Question(s)

How have Native American tribes fought to maintain their tribal sovereignty? How have the policies and decisions of the U.S. government impacted tribal sovereignty?

Snapshot

Engage

Students participate in a Word Splash activity to activate prior knowledge about Indian removal policies and Native American resistance to those policies.

Explore

Students analyze the "Worcester vs. Georgia" case using the Categorical Highlighting strategy.

Explain

Students use the information they highlighted to fill out a chart, summarizing the actions related to the case as either attempts to protect the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation, or attempts to undermine sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation.

Extend

Students watch a video of a judge discussing the role of judges in carrying out the powers of the judicial branch. Then, the class participates in a Four Corners activity to evaluate President Jackson's decision to ignore the Supreme Court's ruling in "Worcester v. Georgia."

Evaluate

Students revisit the Word Splash activity from the beginning of the lesson and create a paragraph summary of what they learned, using important terms from the lesson.

Materials

  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • An Explanation of the Case (attached; one per student)

  • "Worcester v. Georgia" and Tribal Sovereignty Chart (Student Copy) (attached; one per student)

  • "Worcester v. Georgia" and Tribal Sovereignty Chart (Teacher Copy)

  • Four Corners Posters (attached)

  • Internet access (for viewing embedded video below)

  • Highlighters (multiple colors; optional)

Engage

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Begin with slide 3. Use the Elbow Partners strategy to pair students or assign them to groups of 3–4. Explain the Word Splash strategy, telling students there are five terms on the slide—Indian Removal Act of 1830, Cherokee, Resistance, Tribal Sovereignty, and Andrew Jackson. In order to activate prior knowledge, invite students to work with their elbow partners or groups to explain how each term is connected to at two or more of the other terms. Make sure they do this for each term. Give students 5–7 minutes for this discussion. Once groups are ready, call on volunteers to share their ideas with the class. Clarify any misconceptions. Once you feel that students have shared enough to serve as a review of the relevant content you have previously covered, move to the next portion of the activity.

Display slide 4. Tell students they will be discussing the "Worcester v. Georgia" court case in this lesson. Next, give students 2–3 minutes to predict with their elbow partners or groups how the terms from the Word Splash might connect to "Worcester v. Georgia." Call on a few groups to share their ideas with the class and form a hypothesis. Be sure not to single out any "right" answers at this point. Students will come back to this exercise at the end of the lesson after learning about the court case.

Display slide 5. Tell students that, while they are learning about "Worcester v. Georgia," they should keep in mind the following essential questions: how have Native American tribes fought to maintain their tribal sovereignty? And how have the policies and decisions of the U.S. government impacted tribal sovereignty?

Explore

Display slide 6. Use this slide to make sure that students have a common understanding of tribal sovereignty. They will need to reference this term throughout the lesson. Explain to students that the case "Worcester v. Georgia" impacted the tribal sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation, and that the class will explore those issues of tribal sovereignty surrounding the case. Give each student a "Worcester v. Georgia"—An Explanation of the Case handout and two highlighters of different colors. Display slide 7 and ask students to read this handout with their group, using the Categorical Highlighting strategy to analyze the text. Students should use one color to highlight actions taken to protect the tribal sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation and another color to highlight actions taken to take away the tribal sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation. Students should actively discuss with their groups what they should highlight.

Explain

Display slide 8. Distribute a copy of the "Worcester v. Georgia" and Tribal Sovereignty Chart (Student Copy) to each student. Ask students to work with their group and use their Categorical Highlighting notes to complete the chart. Students should have at least two examples in each category, but can have more. Have students explain their examples in 1–3 complete sentences. Additionally, emphasize to students that the examples they choose to put in their chart should be the most important from each category. Students should be prepared to share their findings with the class. See the attached "Worcester v. Georgia" and Tribal Sovereignty Chart (Teacher Copy) for examples of possible student answers.

After student groups have had enough time to complete the chart, assign half of your student groups to share an example of sovereignty being protected, and assign the other half to share an example of sovereignty being taken away. Give students 1–2 minutes to prepare and to select a spokesperson for their group. When ready, call on the spokesperson for each group to share with the class. Students are welcome to add to their charts or make edits to their responses based on class discussion. The purpose of this discussion is to make sure students have a clear understanding of the case and how surrounding issues impacted the tribal sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation.

Extend

Explain to students that the case Worcester v. Georgia was decided by the Supreme Court. Remind them that the Supreme Court is the most powerful court in the country and is made up of nine justices or judges. Whereas the lower courts hear cases that are determined by a single judge. Display slide nine. Use the link on this slide to show the video interview with District Judge Michael Tupper for OK Judicial District 12 discussing the role of judges in carrying out the powers of the judicial branch. You can also access the video using this link (the full URL can also be found in the Resources below). After the video, ask students to turn to an Elbow Partner, and discuss the following questions- based on the video 1) What is the role of a judge? 2) Why is the judicial branch important? After 1-2 minutes, call on students to share out with the whole class.

Next, ask students to take on the role of the judge, drawing on their knowledge about the court's decision for the Cherokee, and on what they saw in the video above. Ask students to use their powers of judicial review to evaluate the actions of President Jackson following the ruling in "Worcester v. Georgia." To do so, move to slide 10.

Students should participate in a short Four Corners activity. Ask students to read the statement on slide 10: President Jackson's decision to ignore the ruling in 'Worcester v. Georgia' was constitutional. Next, ask them to select one of the four levels of agreement or disagreement on the posters ("Strongly Agree," "Agree," "Disagree," or "Strongly Disagree") and stand next to the one corresponding to their choice. After students have formed groups according to their opinions, invite them to discuss the reasons for their choice. Together, each group should come up with a response that justifies their beliefs to share with the class. Have students repeat this process using the statement on slide eleven: A President's decision to ignore a ruling of the Supreme Court is constitutional.

Ultimately, this discussion should be used to highlight the controversial nature of Jackson's decision to disregard the Supreme Court's ruling in "Worcester v. Georgia"—that Jackson's choice was arguably unconstitutional because it undermined the system of checks and balances within the U.S. government. Additionally, his actions threatened the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation by disregarding the Supreme Court ruling that confirmed the Cherokee people had sovereignty over their land and people—which the U.S. and the State of Georgia were legally obligated to respect.

Evaluate

Display slide 12. Have students return to the Word Splash list from the beginning of the lesson. Ask students to add the term "Worcester v. Georgia" to their list. Using all six terms, ask students to write 5–8 sentences summarizing what they learned in the lesson about how the "Worcester v. Georgia" case impacted Cherokee sovereignty. These summaries can be done as a group, in pairs, or individually. Students can complete their summaries on a sheet of notebook paper, notecard, in a composition book, or on a Google doc. Choose the method that best fits your routine and preferences.

Resources