Cherokee Nation Plans to Appoint Representative to US Congress

The Cherokee Nation announced on August 22 it will appoint a delegate to the US House of Representatives, a right granted to the Native American nation by the federal government in a nearly 200-year-old treaty.

“As Native issues continue to rise to the forefront of the national dialogue, now is the time for Cherokee Nation to execute a provision in our treaties,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement. Hoskin was sworn in as principal chief a week before making the announcement, CNN reported.

Hoskin said the right to a delegate in the House was negotiated in two treaties with the federal government and noted that the Cherokee Nation was exercising its treaty rights and strengthening its sovereignty. “We know this is just the beginning and there is much work ahead, but we are being thorough in terms of implementation and ask our leaders in Washington to work with us through this process and on legislation that provides the Cherokee Nation with the delegate to which we are lawfully entitled,” he continued.

Hoskin announced he was nominating the nation’s current vice president of government relations, Kim Teehee, as the nation’s delegate to the House of Representatives. The Council of the Cherokee Nation will need to confirm Teehee’s nomination at a special meeting scheduled for August 29.

“Kim Teehee has worked for years advocating in Congress, on a bipartisan basis, for the interests of Cherokee Nation and is supremely qualified for this post,” Hoskin said. “We are eager to take the recommendation before the Council of the Cherokee Nation and work with our Congressional delegation from Oklahoma to move this historic appointment forward.”

Teehee previously served as a senior advisor to the US House of Representatives Native American Caucus Co-Chair, Representative Dale Kildee (D-Mich.). She then served as the first senior policy advisor for Native American affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Barack Obama.

In a statement, Teehee called her nomination a “historic moment for Cherokee Nation and our citizens.”

“This journey is just beginning and we have a long way to go to see this through to fruition. However, a Cherokee Nation delegate to Congress is a negotiated right that our ancestors advocated for, and today, our tribal nation is stronger than ever and ready to defend all our constitutional and treaty rights. It’s just as important in 2019 as it was in our three treaties,” she said.

The Cherokee Nation’s right to appoint a delegate was established in the 1785 Treaty of Hopewell and the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. The latter forced the Cherokee to renounce their homes and relocate to Oklahoma in exchange for money and other compensation. The journey, known as the Trail of Tears, left nearly 4,000 dead due to disease, starvation, and exhaustion.

American University law professor Ezra Rosser told CNN that the US government has made it difficult for Native American nations to act on the rights granted to them in different treaties. Now, Rosser said, nations are in a position to demand their rights in a way that commands the attention of non-Native Americans.

“We have to recognize that we imposed a genocide on tribes and we imposed harsh measures towards any government structure that they had,” Rosser said. “To me, it’s not surprising that it would take somewhat deep into the self-determination era for tribes to be in a position to assert some of these rights.”

In a 2005 article for the Boston University Public Interest Law Journal, Rosser wrote that having a delegate in the House would ultimately place the Cherokee Nation within the US government. It is unclear what a Cherokee Nation delegate position would look like.

The House currently has six non-voting members, one for Washington, DC; four for the permanently inhabited US territories — American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands; and one from Puerto Rico, which has a resident commissioner, CNN reported. These members cannot vote on the House floor but can vote in committees, introduce legislation, and participate in debate.

There are two other Cherokee nations, the United Keetoowah Band in Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, that are recognized by the federal government.

The Cherokee Nation said it would work with Oklahoma’s delegation to the House to move Teehee’s appointment forward.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.