In accordance with their respective 1835 Treaty of New Echota with the federal government, the Cherokee Nation is continuing its demands the United States honor the historic document by seating a Cherokee Delegate in the U.S. House, which has Osage Nation officials’ support.
The Eighth ON Congress unanimously passed a resolution (ONCR 23-09 sponsored by Congressman Otto Hamilton and co-sponsored by all 11 fellow members) “Supporting the Cherokee Nation’s Assertion of its Treaty Right to a Delegate in the United States House of Representatives” during the 2023 Hun-Kah Session. The resolution passed on April 17 with a delegation of Cherokee Nation officials, including Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Tribal Council Speaker Mike Shambaugh and Kimberly Teehee, who is the CN-selected Cherokee Delegate.
According to ONCR 23-09: “Since its founding, the Osage Nation has urged the United States government to fulfill treaty obligations and uphold the federal trust responsibility and Article 7 of the Cherokee Nation’s 1835 Treaty of New Echota with the United States, ‘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 … it is stipulated that they shall be entitled to a delegate in the House of Representatives whenever Congress shall make provision for the same.’”
ONCR 23-09 also notes: “In addition to explicit language in Article 7 of the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, the Cherokee Nation’s first treaty with the United States, the 1785 Treaty of Hopewell, also includes the right to a congressional deputy in Article 12 and the 1866 Treaty with the Cherokee Nation, affirms the Cherokee Nation’s right to a delegate in Article 31; and in 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia rules that the rights and obligations established under the 1866 treaty remain in effect for the Cherokee Nation and the United States; and Section 12 of the Cherokee Nation Constitution requires the Principal Chief to appoint a Delegate to the United States House of Representatives and that Delegate is to be confirmed by the Council of the Cherokee Nation.”
After winning election for Principal Chief in 2019, Hoskin appointed Teehee, a seasoned Washington, D.C. policy professional, as the first Cherokee Delegate and she was confirmed by a unanimous CN Council vote as well. Currently, Teehee serves as the CN Director of Government Relations and Senior Vice President of Government Relations for Cherokee Nation Businesses. Prior to returning to Oklahoma, Teehee served as Partner for Mapetsi Policy Group, a Washington-based federal advocacy group representing tribes and tribal organizations. She previously served President Barack Obama as the first-ever Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council for three years, according to Teehee’s online bio.
Before the ON Congressional vote on the resolution, Hamilton said he sponsored ONCR 23-09 “in the name of sovereignty, when you see a Nation go to D.C., going to Congress and demand recognition, and I say demand, they didn’t go up there to ask … I can’t help but stand back and look with respect and admiration. That made me not only proud to be an American Indian, but to be proud of our sovereign nations as well … With everything in mind, we have a saying here that I’d like to extend to Hoskin and his Tsalagi people and it’s what we say here – ‘Wash-kon’ – it means ‘do your best,’ so from the Wahzhazhe to the Tsalagi, ‘Wash-kon’ … It is a Cherokee victory, whatever happens, but we also look at it as a victory for Indian Country as well.”
According to The White House website on legislative matters, “The (U.S. House) is made up of 435 elected members, divided among the 50 states … In addition, there are 6 non-voting members, representing the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and four other (U.S.) territories: American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.” Non-voting members are assigned to committees and can submit amendments to bills but cannot vote on the floor for final passage of bills, according to a PBS Newshour article.
ONCR 23-09 passed will 11 “yes” votes and one absence that day from ON Congressman John Maker. After the vote, Congressional Speaker Alice Goodfox invited Hoskin and Teehee to share remarks from the Congressional Chambers podium.
“This issue is of the highest importance to the Cherokee Nation,” Hoskin said. “It’s about asserting a treaty right that is born from a document that is a source of pain and injury – the Osage Nation and the Osage people know something about that, all tribal nations know something about that – Part of our chapter was the Removal Treaty, the same treaty that forcibly removed the Cherokee people from our homeland to what is now known as Northeast Oklahoma. In addition to the pain and injury, cession of land and what it reflected in the loss of life, blood and treasure, in that Treaty is a source of power and that powerful sentence is one that the United States has seemed to have forgotten about and the Cherokee people didn’t … Congress so far has not seen it as quite so simple, or they would’ve acted upon on it. We have undertaken a great effort to educate the Congress on that provision meaning what it says. I feel confident we will achieve victory eventually in the Congress, but we need help, and we appreciate it … This (resolution) is of great substance; this will be useful to us as we advance the cause of seating Kim Teehee.”
Teehee, who grew up in Claremore, holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Northeastern State University and has a Juris Doctorate from the University of Iowa, College of Law. Teehee served in her Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs post at the time of the historic $380 million Osage Trust Settlement with the federal government in October 2011. Hoskin then asked Goodfox for permission to speak, which was honored.
“Wado! Thank you truly from the bottom of my heart for you considering this historic resolution,” Teehee told the ON Congress. “You join tribal nations from across the country, through these regional, national organizations in supporting our effort to seat the delegate. We often get asked ‘why now?’ … Well, we have so many shared, similar kinds of historic experiences in this country. We know that with forced removal that our history didn’t end there. We know that throughout the 19th century that Congress continued and repeatedly passed law after law after law that continued to dismantle our Nation, even our ability to elect our own Chief, which wasn’t restored until the mid-70s. So, when we look at ‘why now?’ we have to look at it through the lens of removal cost – nearly a quarter of our population to perish on that forced march – It really wasn’t until the mid-70s and beyond that we were able with federal resources to start addressing the great needs of the Nation.”
“And chief-after-chief of the Cherokee Nation, once we were restored the privilege of electing our chiefs again, continued to build foundations and Chief Hoskin felt we were at a place today where we can actually exercise this treaty right. Now, he served on the Cherokee Constitutional Convention many years ago, and so, he was one of the architects of language in our current constitution, which requires the Chief to appoint and for the Council to confirm, and so I was blessed to not only get the nomination, but to have our Council unanimously confirm me as the delegate.”
“What it says also is that it gives us a voice at the table when laws are formulated about us, this may be Cherokee Nation’s treaty right, but I am not naïve to know, or think, that this is only about Cherokee Nation,” Teehee said. “So many of our rights are similar to the other. I remember being your advocate long ago for tribal trust funds when the litigation was going through and ultimately settled. We all have similar rights and similar opportunities that we advance. And I’m privileged to be an advocate and would be another voice for you in the Congress along with others that we have there today. I think the timing is right, we have the most diverse [Congress] we’ve ever had in my lifetime.”
Teehee then noted “we had a historic (November 2022 Congressional) hearing where both sides of the political aisle have expressed support for Cherokee Nation’s delegate and expressed commitment to finding a pathway to getting this delegate seated and so I’m optimistic and I have to be.”
Hamilton presented gifts to Hoskin, Teehee and Shambaugh after the speeches, which included Pendleton blankets. Later, the Congress hosted a small reception for the Cherokee delegation in the Minerals Council Chambers lobby, which included beverages, meatpies and cake.
Osage Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear was also present that day, spoke at the session and signed ONCR 23-09 afterward.
“We’ve been neighbors for a long time and even in 1872 as we all know when we negotiated and purchased this land from Cherokee Nation and we’ve been neighbors and supporting each other ever since,” Standing Bear said, noting “that says a lot” with the Cherokee delegation visiting from its respective nation with government headquartered in Tahlequah. “We support you completely as shown by the unanimous action of this Osage Congress.”