US House committee weighs seating Cherokee Nation delegate
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US House committee weighs seating Cherokee Nation delegate

The US House of Representatives’ Rules Committee Wednesday held a hearing exploring the possibility of seating a nonvoting delegate from the Cherokee Nation. The hearing is an essential first step towards fulfilling a provision from an old treaty, known as the Treaty of New Echota, that led to the Cherokee Nation’s forced removal from their ancestral lands.

Article 7 of the Treaty of New Echota grants the nation a delegate in the US House of Representatives as a necessary condition of the treaty. The treaty eventually led to the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from its land east of the Mississippi and the deaths of many Cherokee Natives on the Trail of Tears.

In 2019, the Cherokee Nation stated its intention to send a delegate to congress. Kimberly Teehee was unanimously selected as the nation’s delegate after nomination by Hoskin. This hearing served as an opportunity for the House committee to discuss and explore the potential legal and political implications of seating the selected delegate. The witnesses testifying before the committee were the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation Chuck Hoskin Jr., Native American Law Professor Lindsay Roberts, and legislative attorney from the Congressional Research Service Mainon Schwartz.

Hoskin’s testimony described the Treaty of New Echota’s delegate provision as a “mandatory duty” that the US must comply with. Hoskin also explained the legislative and political history of the treaty and encouraged the committee to seat the nation’s delegate. Hoskin emphasized the treaty’s legitimacy, despite the centuries that have passed, citing various US Supreme Court decisions reaffirming treaties and the rights they granted to native communities.

Roberts, in his testimony, offered the committee an overview of Native American and treaty law. Roberts spoke of current interpretations of treaties by federal courts, as well as the historical power imbalances in the creation of treaties with native nations. Schwartz further elaborated on the historical context of the treaty and its creation, as well as the current standing and implications of Article 7’s delegate provision.