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Pelosi exploring a 'path' for Cherokee Nation delegate in Congress following testimony

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Kim Teehee
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Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Delegate-Designee to U.S. House of Representatives for the Cherokee Nation Kim Teehee.

Cherokee Nation is continuing its push to seat a delegate in Congress.

On Wednesday, the House Rules Committee held a hearing about whether they will seat a treaty-mandated delegate from the Cherokee Nation to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. talked about the history of the Treaty of New Echota, signed in 1835. This treaty forced the removal of thousands of Cherokees on the Trail of Tears. But, it also promised the tribal nation would have a delegate in the US House.

Hoskin Jr. nominated Kim Teehee to serve as the Cherokee Nation’s first delegate as part of his “First 100 Days in Office,” initiative in 2019.

"Tribes, tribal organizations and tribal citizens across the country strongly support our effort," Hoskin Jr. said. "They understand that fulfilling this promise would be an historic victory for treaty rights and sovereignty."

It's not clear when or if Congress will seat Teehee. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did issue a statement of support for the effort Wednesday evening.

“The House Democratic Caucus will continue to explore a path toward welcoming a Delegate from the Cherokee Nation into the People’s House,” she said in a statement.

A delegate can't vote on a final bill, but they can take part in committee meetings, introduce legislation and make speeches. Teehee would be the first tribal nation delegate. Currently, house delegates represent American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Seating Teehee, Hoskin said, is long overdue.

“Treaties are binding commitments. The Cherokee Nation delivered on its commitment long ago in land and lives. It is time for the United States to deliver on its promise,” Hoskin said. “We are grateful to Chairman McGovern and the members of the Rules Committee for holding this historic hearing. Now we’re asking the House of Representatives to take action and seat the Cherokee Nation’s delegate.”

Teehee would be an experienced choice. She has served in several roles in Washington. She has worked as the Cherokee Nation’s vice president of government relations since 2014 and previously worked in the Obama administration as the first-ever senior policy advisor for Native American affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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