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Cherokee Nation announces plans to send a delegate to the House of Representatives, invoking 184-year-old treaty

The US government offered them this option nearly 200 years ago

George Rose/Getty Images

The Cherokee Nation plans to activate an offer from a 184-year-old treaty and send a representative to Washington, D.C., the Native American tribe announced on Thursday.

What's the background?

In 1835, the Cherokee Nation was forced to sign the Treaty of New Echota with the United States. In this lopsided agreement, the Cherokee people were forced to move from their homes in North Carolina along the Trail of Tears to what is now Oklahoma. Nearly 4,000 Cherokees died during this relocation.

In an attempt to convince the Cherokee people to go quietly, the U.S. government offered them the right to send a delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.

This would change the dynamic between the 370,000 strong Cherokee Nation and the United States, by more closely integrating the two.

What happened now?

The Cherokee Nation's vice president of government relations, Kimberly Teehee, has been nominated as the first person to serve in this role, but has yet to be formally approved by the tribal council. This vote is scheduled to take place on Thursday.

After this, the Cherokee Nation and the U.S. government would have to agree on what this delegate's role might look like.

"I think we have to look at the roadmaps that are laid out as a suggested path to seating our delegate, and certainly the delegates afforded the territories give us an idea of what is workable in the Congress," the tribe's principal chief, Chuck Hoskin Jr., told CNN.

What else?

The current U.S. territories, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa, as well as the District of Columbia, all send non-voting members to the U.S. House of Representatives. Although these delegates are not able to participate in floor votes, they can sit on committees, vote on these committees, introduce bills, and speak on the floor of the House.

Hoskin said that "the Cherokee Nation is today in a position of strength that I think is unprecedented in its history."

One last thing…
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