Cherokee Nation Wants US to Make Good on 1835 Promise

Tribe is seeking to seat a nonvoting member for the first time
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2019 1:00 PM CDT
Cherokee Nation Wants Seat in Congress It Was Promised
Kimberly Teehee speaks in front of the flag of the Cherokee Nation and the US flag after it was announced that she is being nominated by Cherokee National Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. as a delegate to the US House, in Tahlequah, Okla., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019.   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The Cherokee people have lived on the land now known as the United States of America for millennia. And yet the Cherokee Nation has never sent a delegate to Congress, something the Nation is now seeking to change. When the Treaty of New Echota was signed in 1835, it booted the Cherokee off their land and designated land in Oklahoma and $5 million for them—and it specifically gave them the right to send a delegate to the House of Representatives. The Nation is now pointing to that treaty as it aims to send Kimberly Teehee, the delegate selected by Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.; she is expected to be confirmed easily by the Nation's legislative branch this week, the New York Times reports. Teehee would be a nonvoting member.

The Treaty of New Echota is actually what gave birth to the Trail of Tears; as the Washington Post explains, it drove a wedge between the Cherokee people who were for and against the treaty. Congress has yet to respond to the Nation's plan, and it's not clear why no Cherokee Nation delegate has been seated in the nearly 2 centuries since the treaty was signed. A law professor tells the Post the language is "complicated" and could be interpreted different ways. Nonvoting delegates already represent Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. The difference, as CNN explains, is that the federal government and the Native American tribe currently interact as two sovereign nations; this would incorporate the Cherokee Nation into the US government. (More Cherokee Nation stories.)

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