The Cherokee Nation on Thursday announced it will appoint a delegate to Congress under the provisions of an 1835 treaty.

Under the Treaty of New Echota, which forced the Cherokee from the southeastern United States into what is now Oklahoma and resulted in the Trail of Tears, which killed nearly 4,000 Cherokee people, a congressional delegate is one form of compensation the government promised. The nation has nominated Kim Teehee, its vice president of government relations, as its delegate.


The federal government has historically imposed hurdles that prevent Native American tribes from claiming what they were promised in treaties, but American University law professor Ezra Rosser said only recently has the nation found itself in a position where it feels equipped to begin exercising those rights.

"To me, it's not surprising that it would take somewhat deep into the self-determination era for tribes to be in a position to assert some of these rights,” he told CNN.

“The Cherokee Nation is today in a position of strength that I think is unprecedented in its history,” said Chuck Hoskin Jr., who was recently sworn in as principal chief of the nation.

The treaty does not say whether the delegate would have voting power, but Hoskin said the nation would use the existing nonvoting members representing U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., as a model.

The delegates do not get a vote on the House floor but have the power to introduce bills and vote in committee, which Hoskin said could make space at the table for issues important to the Cherokee Nation and Native Americans in general even if the delegate does not vote on them directly.

"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," he said.