Kim Teehee, who was nominated to be the Cherokee Nation’s first delegate to Congress, said she feels optimistic about House lawmakers allowing her to be seated in the lower chamber.
Nearly 200 years after the Treaty of New Echota was ratified in 1835, the Cherokee Nation hopes Teehee will be its first delegate in Congress. Teehee, who was first nominated for the position in August 2019 by the Cherokee Nation’s Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., would be part of a group of non-voting delegates in the House, similar to those from the District of Columbia, Guam, and other United States territories.
Last week, the House Rules Committee held a “first-of-its-kind” hearing to consider adding a non-voting delegate in Congress to represent the Cherokee Nation, which is part of a provision in the Treaty of New Echota. NBC News noted the Cherokee Nation was promised a delegate in exchange for their tribal land.
Teehee, sounding optimistic about the going Congress, said last Thursday, “It’s never been done before.”
“What impressed me was how well informed the members were, how thoughtful they were. But also, more importantly, the comments they made were made on a bipartisan basis, and they were supported,” she said about the members of the congressional hearing.
“It gives Cherokee Nation a seat at the table when formulating laws that impact us, but impacts other tribes, too,” Teehee said, explaining that her being in Congress could open the door for other tribal nations to do the same thing. “It gives us a unique opportunity to educate members about tribes in this country, about ways in which we need to adequately address the great needs of Indian country.”
Teehee’s seat differs from how other congressional delegates have gotten their seats. She was appointed by the Cherokee Nation’s principal chief, while others have been elected, such as Guam’s Del-elect James Moylan (R), who last month was the first Republican since 1993 elected to represent Guam as a non-voting delegate. However, while Teehee was appointed, Cherokee Nation officials and members of Congress signaled support for having the position open for election.
House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) said after last week’s hearing, “This can and should be done as quickly as possible. That is my view,” adding, “The history of this country is a history of broken promise after broken promise to Native American communities. This cannot be another broken promise.”
Despite what McGovern said, the following steps are unclear since the lawmakers talked about multiple options to seat a new delegate during the hearing, such as including a provision to the House rules package in the next Congress, which would also need to be approved every two years at the start of a new legislative session.
Either way, Teehee remains optimistic that she will be in Congress next year, saying, “The stars are completely aligning…This is the most diverse Congress in my lifetime, the most women in Congress in my lifetime. And I hope to join them next year.”