(Photo courtesy of the Cherokee Phoenix)
Article 12. That the Indians may have full confidence in the justice of the United States respecting their interests, they shall have the right to send a deputy of their choice, whenever they think fit, to Congress. (Treaty of Hopewell, 1785)
Article 7: The Cherokee nation having 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 condition as well as to guard and secure in the most effectual manner the rights guaranteed to them in this treaty, and with a view to illustrate the liberal and enlarged policy of the Government of the United States towards the Indians in their removal beyond the territorial limits of the States, it is stipulated that they shall be entitled to a delegate in the House of Representatives of the United States whenever Congress shall make provision for the same. (Treaty of New Echota, 1835)
These two articles from Cherokee Nation and United States history demonstrate that the Cherokee Nation does, and always has had— since the treaty’s ratification—the right to a delegate to the United States Congress. Recently-elected Cherokee Nation Principal Chief, Chuck Hoskin, Jr., put the wheels in motion for this to happen, and Cherokee Nation citizen Kimberly Teehee has been nominated for this vital position. Ms. Teehee, among her many accomplishments, is an attorney who served in the Obama administration as a senior policy advisor for Native American affairs. Cherokees have the right person equipped for this task, ready to go.
This is about doing the right thing. Congress, simply, needs to do the right thing here.
I have collateral ancestors who helped develop the Treaty of New Echota, and two of them were signers. The Treaty of New Echota was essentially a resignation by members of what became known as the Ridge Party. They eventually developed in opposition to the Ross Party, named for then Chief John Ross and his followers, who were set against any relinquishment of Cherokee lands under any circumstances. The Ridge Party members were not always in favor of giving in to the U.S. Government, but, as more Cherokee begin to perish due to colonial encroachment, Cherokees like my great, great, great uncles, Robert Rogers, William Rogers, and Johnson Rogers, began to understand the futility of battling the government, fearing that the entire tribe would fall victim to genocide. For men like Major Ridge (who was murdered for his role in the treaty) his son, John, and William Rogers (a victim of attempted murder for his role), tribal sovereignty was more important than tribal location. This will, understandably, always be a source of tension and debate among Cherokees. I cover some of this history in my forthcoming novella, Chattahoochee Rain.
I think my ancestors would be pleased that Chief Hoskin has taken this step and no doubt proud of Kim Teehee for accepting the nomination. The House of Representatives needs to do what’s right. My hope is that the Great Spirit will guide our congressmen and women to consider the massive scope of what is at stake here.