Cherokee Nation sending first representative to U.S. Congress

Cherokee hoping U.S. government keeps roughly 200-year old promise

By Timothy Nerozzi

August 28, 2019

Citing a historic 19 century treaty, the Cherokee Nation has announced plans to send their first-ever representative to congress.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced this week that he has moved to appoint Kim Teehee, former member off the Obama administration and member of the Cherokee Nation as the tribe’s official advocate in congress.

Kim Teehee is the tribe’s current vice president of government relations. She will be nominated and the tribe will make its final decision for her confirmation on August 29.

“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,” said Teehee. “It’s just as important in 2019 as it was in our three treaties.”

The Cherokee Nation is a federally recognized sovereign territory run and administrated by the successors of the historic Cherokee tribe.

Close to 300,000 U.S. citizens are members of the Nation, most of whom live in the state of Oklahoma. The Nation maintains its own laws, legislation, public services, and the court system. It is also subject to its own rules and regulations, which often differ from those on the state or federal levels.

The Treaty of New Echota, signed into law in 1835 between the federal government and the Cherokee, outlined future relations between the U.S. government and the Cherokee people. The Cherokee, along with most other Native American tribes at the time, were being rapidly displaced by American expansion. Though at one point part of what is today Oklahoma was set to be a Cherokee majority state named after Sequoyah the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet (pictured below).

The treaty allotted land in Oklahoma for the displaced Native Americans, who had often been forcibly removed from their property. It also provided $5 million in funds.

Relevant to the new announcement from Chief Hoskin is the additional provision of the right to representation in the larger U.S. government.

“The Cherokee Nation has already made great progress in civilization and deeming it important that every proper and laudable inducement should be offered to their people to improve their conditions as well as to guard and secure in the most effectual manner the rights [guaranteed] to them in this treaty,” states the Treaty of New Echota, “[The Cherokee Nation] shall be entitled to a delegate in the House of Representatives of the United States whenever Congress shall make provision for the same.”

The U.S. government has not yet released an official response to the announced delegate nomination. If the nominated delegate is accepted, it will be the first of its kind in modern U.S. legislation. The representative could take on a similar status to non-voting delegates already in congress.

There are currently six of those representing American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico’s non-voting delegate is known as the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico who is elected to serve a four-year term. Other non-voting delegates serve two-year terms similar to their congressional peers.

Representatives from the Cherokee Nation did not respond to multiple inquiries ahead of the deadline for this story.

“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,” said Chief Hoskin.