January 31, 2023

By SCOTT MCKIE BP

Cherokee One Feather Asst. editor

The Cherokee Nation is seeking a delegate to the US House of Representatives promised in the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. Richard G. Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), believes that all three Cherokee state-recognized tribes should be represented by one or more delegates in Congress.

In a recent letter to Rep. James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Committee on Rules, and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), senior member of the House Committee on Rules, Chief Sneed wrote: ” We disagree with the Cherokee Nation’s position that it is the only Cherokee state to which Article 7 (Treaty of New Echota) applies.”

The letter continues: “The Treaty of New Echota is dated December 29, 1835. It was drawn up and signed in New Echota, Georgia, which was part of the Cherokee Native Territory. The treaty uses the term “Cherokee Nation” (note that the word “nation” is lowercase) several times to refer to all Cherokee peoples. These include the Cherokee Indians, later recognized as the Cherokee Nation (in present-day Oklahoma), the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (in present-day North Carolina), and the United Keetoowah Band (in present-day Oklahoma). It appears that this treaty’s reference to the Cherokee Nation (meaning all Cherokee peoples) has been merged to refer only to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.”

Chief Sneed told One Feather, “The Treaty of New Echota (1835) was one of several treaties by which the federal government divided the Cherokee people. In particular, it provided the primary legal basis for the federal government to deprive the Cherokee Indians of their homeland and separate us by hundreds of miles. To survive this federally-enforced physical separation, the Cherokee Indians reorganized into three geographically distinct groups—the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.”

He added: “In Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians vs. United States, the 1886 Supreme Court decision, the court focused solely on determining which group of Cherokee people would receive monies from the sale of specific properties and did not address other articles of the contract. The court simply held that the contract made some of the funds conditional on distance and that the Eastern Band was not a party other subsequent contractsthey were not entitled to a share of these specific funds.”

Chief Sneed continued: “In short, the court focused solely on the allocation of funds from any particular transaction – not which Cherokee group receives a congressional delegate. Federal courts have issued numerous rulings over the years confirming the Treaty of New Echota binding on all three Cherokee tribal nations. Therefore, all three are entitled to be represented in Congress under Article 7 of the treaty, whether it be one delegate per tribal nation or a single delegate representing the interests of all three tribal nations and their citizens. It is impossible to honor this treaty with the Cherokee people without including and addressing all of the tribal nations that now represent the “Cherokee people.” So we look forward to working with Congress and the other Cherokee nations to find a path that fully honors the treaty.”

Chuck Hoskin Jr., Chief Chief of the Cherokee Nation, testified before the US House Rules Committee on Wednesday, November 16. He said: “Contracts are binding commitments. The Cherokee nation fulfilled their commitment to land and life long ago. It’s time America lived up to its promise. We are grateful to Chairman McGovern and the members of the Rules Committee for conducting this historic hearing. Now we are asking the House of Representatives to take action and install the Cherokee Nation delegate.”

In August 2019, Chief Hoskin named Kim Teehee a delegate. Teehee, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, was the first-ever senior political adviser on Native American affairs on the White House Domestic Policy Council during President Barack Obama’s administration.

Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (DN.M.), Chair of the United States Committee on Indigenous Peoples, said in a statement about the delegate in general: “For too long and for too many tribal nations, the United States has failed to honor its own treaty obligations . This hearing is a step in the right direction, but the commitment remains unfulfilled. Sending out the seat of Delegate Teehee in Congress would send a strong message to every tribe that the United States will honor its obligations to the Cherokee and to all American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. As Chair of the United States Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples, I will continue to urge the United States to honor their trust and treaty obligations.”

The American Indian National Congress passed a resolution in support of the delegate’s installation on October 25, 2019, which reads: “Now, therefore, be resolved that the American Indian National Congress (NCAI) fully supports the exercise of tribal treaty rights, including the seat of a delegates to the US House of Representatives where promised, and calls on the House of Representatives to honor its commitment to tribal nations, including the Cherokee Nation, by placing its nominated delegate in Congress.”

Chief Sneed’s letter concludes, “As the treaty and precedent make clear, any action by the House Rules Committee, the House of Representatives or Congress to appoint a Cherokee delegate under Article 7 should include a delegate from the Eastern Band.”

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