America Congress is exploring the potential for honouring a promise made practically 200 years in the past: seating a delegate from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, a Native American tribe, within the US legislature.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin testified on Wednesday earlier than a US Home Guidelines Committee, the primary to look at the prospect of seating a Cherokee delegate within the chamber of Congress.
The 1835 Treaty of New Echota features a provision permitting the Cherokee Nation to ship a delegate to Washington, DC. A separate treaty in 1866 affirmed this proper, Hoskin mentioned.
“The Cherokee Nation has in actual fact adhered to our obligations underneath these treaties,” he instructed the panel. “I’m right here to ask america to do the identical.”
The session befell amid requires the US to reckon with its historical past of violent displacement, racism and cultural erasure towards Native People.
#CherokeeDelegate. We made historical past immediately, however we should maintain advocating for America to maintain its treaty promise to @CherokeeNation to a delegate to Congress. Immediately’s listening to was highly effective and a foundation for actual motion. https://t.co/yxbyDxKhxE
— Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. (@ChuckHoskin_Jr) November 16, 2022
“Article 7 of the Treaty of New Echota is crystal clear—Cherokee Nation ‘shall be entitled to a delegate within the Home of Representatives of america every time Congress shall make provision for a similar’,” the Cherokee Nation web site notes.
The treaty was used because the authorized foundation for the US authorities’s pressured removing of Cherokee Nation members from their homelands east of the Mississippi River. In accordance with the US Nationwide Parks Service (NPS), it was carried out underneath coercive and unlawful circumstances.
Though most Cherokee Nation members opposed removing, the US sought out a small minority who believed a treaty was the one approach to survive amid fast enlargement westward.
In December 1835, the US met with a bunch of Cherokee individuals to signal a treaty ceding all Cherokee territory east of the Mississippi to the US. Not a single elected consultant of the Cherokee Nation was current and greater than 15,000 protested.
Violent removals quickly adopted.
“In Might 1838, Federal troops and state militias started the roundup of the Cherokees into stockades,” the NPS mentioned. “Households had been separated-the aged and in poor health pressured out at gunpoint – individuals given solely moments to gather cherished possessions. White looters adopted, ransacking homesteads as Cherokees had been led away.”
By November, about 12,000 Cherokee had been despatched on a brutal, 1,290km (800 miles) journey west, the NPS mentioned. Whereas the precise variety of these killed in what grew to become often known as the “Path of Tears” will not be identified, the company cited a health care provider who accompanied the removing and mentioned practically one-fifth of the Cherokee inhabitants died because of the removals.
‘Needs to be executed rapidly’
Hoskin set the method of getting a Cherokee delegate into the Home in movement in 2019. That’s when he nominated Kimberly Teehee, an adviser to former President Barack Obama, for the place. The tribe’s governing council authorised her unanimously.
On Wednesday, Hoskin advised to the committee that Teehee may very well be seated as early as this 12 months by the use of both a decision or change in statute. The committee’s Chairman, Massachusetts Democratic Consultant James McGovern, and different members supported the concept it may very well be achieved rapidly.
“This may and must be executed as rapidly as doable,” McGovern mentioned. “The historical past of this nation is a historical past of damaged promise after damaged promise to Native American communities. This can’t be one other damaged promise.”
Nonetheless, committee members famous that some questions stay, together with whether or not different tribes may very well be afforded comparable illustration and whether or not the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is the right heir of the settlement.
McGovern mentioned he has been contacted by officers with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Delaware Nation, each of which have separate treaties with the US authorities that decision for some type of illustration in Congress.
McGovern additionally famous there are two different federally recognised bands of Cherokee Indians who argue they need to be thought of successors to the 1835 treaty: the United Keetoowah Band (UKB) of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma and the Jap Band of Cherokee Indians primarily based in North Carolina, each of which reached out to his workplace.
The UKB chosen its personal congressional delegate, Oklahoma lawyer Victoria Holland, in 2021. Holland mentioned in an interview with The Related Press that her tribe is a successor to the Cherokee Nation that signed the 1835 treaty, identical to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
“As such, we’ve equal rights underneath all of the treaties with the Cherokee individuals and we must be handled as siblings,” Holland mentioned.
Members of the committee additionally appeared to agree the delegate would tackle a job much like representatives of different territories such because the District of Columbia, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands, all of which might submit amendments to payments however are usually not allowed to vote on their ultimate passage.
Markwayne Mullin, a member of the Cherokee Nation, was elected to the US Senate earlier this month, making him the primary Native American to serve within the Senate in practically 20 years.
“As a member of the Cherokee Nation, I firmly imagine the federal authorities should honor its belief and treaty obligations to Indian Nations,” Mullin mentioned in a press release. “We’re solely nearly as good as our phrase.”