First Cherokee Delegate Named to Congress

An official representative of the Cherokee Nation was named to Congress for the first time ever.

The Council of the Cherokee Nation approved Kimberly Teehee, executive director of government relations for the Cherokee Nation, to be their delegate to the House. The development, CNN writes, represents a fulfillment of a promise made to the tribe in a nearly 200-year-old treaty with the federal government.

Teehee, who served as a senior policy adviser for Native American Affairs to former President Barack Obama, was nominated by Chuck Hoskin Jr., chief principal of the Cherokee Nation. The newly named representative has also served as a senior adviser to the U.S. House Native American Caucus Co-Chair former Representative Dale Kildee and has held various positions within the Cherokee Nation.

It is unclear whether Teehee, whose appointment requires congressional approval, will be able to vote in the House. Hoskin has noted that her role may be similar to those who represent Washington, DC, and five U.S. territories who can introduce legislation, vote in their respective committees and debate on the floor.

“This journey is just beginning and we have a long way to go to see this through to fruition. However, a Cherokee Nation delegate to Congress is a negotiated right that our ancestors advocated for, and today, our tribal nation is stronger than ever and ready to defend all our constitutional and treaty rights. It’s just as important in 2019 as it was in our three treaties,” said Teehee, adding that she was “humbled” by the nomination.

Her nomination stem from an 1835 Treaty of New Echota in which the Cherokee were promised a representative to the House as compensation for what is known as the Trail of Tears when almost 4,000 members of the tribe died after being forced to leave their homes.

Hoskin Jr. called Teehee “extremely qualified” for the post and stressed that through her nomination, the Cherokee Nation is “exercising our treaty rights and strengthening our sovereignty.”

“We know this is just the beginning and there is much work ahead, but we are being thorough in terms of implementation and ask our leaders in Washington to work with us through this process and on legislation that provides the Cherokee Nation with the delegate to which we are lawfully entitled,” he said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday.

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