Posted by Joseph Winberry
The Cherokee Nation has announced their intention to appoint a delegate to the United States House of Representatives. The tribe has asserted their right to appoint the delegate under terms of the Treaty of New Echota, signed between them and the United States Government after the Cherokee were forced from their native lands in 1835. According to information obtained by CNN, the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation describes itself as the largest tribal nation in the United States with nearly 370,000 citizens. As one of three federally recognized native American tribes, the Cherokee Nation’s decision to activate a promise made to them nearly two hundred years ago sent a shockwave through the media when it was announced last Thursday.
Most of the media response was either positive or neutral. This neutrality may be due to the fact that many people are uncertain as to what this news means. The likelihood is that the Cherokee Nation and the United States Government is not exactly sure what it means either. As no similar promise has been acted upon, there is not a precedent to look to. The vagueness of the treaty also leaves things open for interpretation. Will the Cherokee Nation assert their right to have a voting member in Congress like only the states have? Or will they join others like the people living in Washington, D.C. or federally controlled territories such as American Samoa in settling for a non-voting delegate to the body? Or will the government ultimately refuse to recognize a delegate serving in any capacity? These are questions that will likely take more time to answer.
This is a developing story that is likely to illicit more reaction once next steps are announced.
At a time when immigration, birth right citizenship, and refugee status are at the center of American political debates, the federal government may be less inclined to honor an agreement made with native people so long ago. The president’s rhetoric towards another non-state entity that sends a delegate to Congress—Puerto Rico—might also ultimately cool the Cherokee’s interest in being part of the House of Representatives. Nevertheless, this is a historic first step in a period of many firsts for the United States Government. All eyes are on Washington to see where this discussion goes from here. Staff at the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center will continue to monitor updates from across the media spectrum as this story unfolds.