In 1835, U.S government officials and members of the Cherokee Nation signed the Treaty of New Echota, which led to the expulsion of Cherokees from their territory east of the Mississippi River in a mass exodus known as the Trail of Tears.

A lesser-known provision of the same treaty also granted the Cherokee Nation a delegate in the House of Representatives "whenever Congress shall make provision for the same."

Now, the tribal government is calling on congressional leadership to finally make good on the pledge of its predecessors.

"The Treaty of New Echota has no expiration date," Cherokee Nation principal chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a recent video message.

"The obligation to seat a Cherokee Nation delegate is as binding today as it was in 1835," he added.

The Cherokee Nation is renewing its push to get Congress to meet its obligation three years after the nation nominated its first delegate, Cherokee Nation citizen Kim Teehee.

A former White House senior adviser, Teehee said in 2019 that it was especially important for the Cherokee Nation to have a delegate in Congress because the treaty that specified it also led to the Trail of Tears, in which some 4,000 Cherokees died.

"We can't ignore that history and what it meant for us to have a provision like that put in place given the devastation that occurred and the deaths that occurred," Teehee said at the time.

According to the tribal government, the House of Representatives has to take action to officially seat the delegate.

The Cherokee Nation's delegate would not be able to cast votes on the House floor or preside over floor sessions, but would be able to make speeches and vote in committee.

There are currently six nonvoting members of Congress, representing the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The Cherokee Nation describes itself as the largest tribal government in the U.S. with more than 430,000 citizens.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

300x250 Ad

300x250 Ad

Support quality journalism, like the story above, with your gift right now.