Seating a Cherokee Nation Delegate 187 Years Later

I get freebie articles from various publications on the internet. They solicit me for a subscription to their publication. I can not find fault with any of them. If I did subscribe to all of them, read them all; I would find myself at my desk 100% of the day. I do need to get up and walk a few miles each day. It is good for my body, mind, and the German Shepard.

In this publication of The New Republic? The Cherokee Nation has the Congressional right to having a non-voting delegate to the House as granted 187 years ago. Like other things with Congress, it ignores responsibility and this grant in particular. Not unusual for a political Congress to do nothing.

American territories such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands have delegates in Congress. Puerto Rico has a resident commissioner (not sure of the difference) representation in the House. It appears as though Congress is taking up this representation again. If granted, the Choctaw nation will be the only one not having a delegate as granted by treaty. Here is the rest of the story.

187 Years Later, Congress Thinks, “Still Thinks” About Seating a Cherokee Delegate,” The New Republic, Grace Segers

AB: Title adjusted to suit my attitude. I can’t say what I am really thinking.

In 1835, the chief negotiator of the New Echota treaty between the U.S. federal government and the Cherokee Nation, John Ridge insists Congress follow through with allowing a Cherokee delegate. He writes to the governor of Georgia demanding the treaty includes a Cherokee Delegate to serve in Congress. Ridge:

“If you fail to obtain the right of being heard on the floor of Congress, by our Delegate, let the Bill perish here, without the trouble of submitting it to our people only to be rejected. How can I find words to convince my people of the liberality and friendship of the U.S., when at the outset this right, which would have rendered them a great people, is denied by Congress.”

Congress did approve the Treaty of New Echota once upon a time in 1835. It does include a Cherokee Delegate to Congress. As with other promises and treaties made by Congress to American Indians, legislators of the U.S. government ignores its commitment. One hundred and eighty-seven years later, Congress is still considering thinking about righting “its” wrong.

Fast forward to 2022. In a similar manner as John Ridge, the current Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation Chuck Hoskin speaks to the House Rules Committee:

“Today, I come before you to remind you of the promise the federal government made to our ancestors. I ask the House of Representatives to honor this treaty right, fulfill its obligation under the treaty, and seat our Delegate.”

The committee held a hearing on the issue in the first step towards seating a delegate. Chuck Hoskin quoted Ridge’s letter in his opening statement as a reminder of how long this issue has lingered unattended.

There are no differences with this delegate. The same as delegates from the territories of the Virgin Islands and Guam, a Cherokee delegate would be “situated” in a similar manner. They sit on committees and can introduce bills. They are not able to vote on the House floor. Delegate Kimberly Teehee was confirmed as the Cherokee nation’s delegate to Congress in 2019 in accordance with the treaty. Delegate Teehee is a former adviser to President Barack Obama on Native American affairs.

The historical results of the Treaty of New Echota, were a displacement of thousands of Cherokees from their homeland. They were sent to territory west of the Mississippi River in a forced removal known as the Trail of Tears. Opposed by many Cherokees, the treaty gave the nation $5 million in exchange for seven million acres of land. The treaty also promised federal representation for the tribe in Congress which remains a commitment still left open.

AB: Fulfilling the commitment today is more complex after 187 years. Politics and procedures make it so.

The “option least likely to raise constitutional concerns,” is for Congress to create a seat for a Cherokee delegate through the ordinary legislative process. Passing a bill through both chambers and getting the president to sign it would accomplish such. No legislation has been introduced on the topic. Wednesday’s hearing was a small but important first step. Congress has handled similar situations through legislation in the past.

Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation Chuck Hoskin . . .

“When we get to our new homeland, in what would later become Oklahoma, we are simply trying to survive and rebuild a great society. We are now, I think, in a position where we can as a practical matter assert this right, whereas my predecessors in the two centuries before—frankly, we were just trying to hang on to our way of life and rebuild.”

The Senate in 1835 approved the treaty and it remains for the House to find a way to seat a Cherokee Delegate in the House. The Cherokee Tribal Council confirmed Kimberly Teehee as the nation’s delegate to Congress in 2019 in accordance with the treaty. Now she must be seated in Congress.

“Trail of Tears,” The Museum of the Cherokee Indian,