Things That Matter

The Cherokee Nation Was Promised Congressional Representation Nearly 200 Years Ago And Now They’re Demanding It

Fact: the US was built on stolen land. Plain and simple.

When European colonists arrived in what is today the United States, there were already an estimated 10 million Native Americans living across the continent. They formed their own independent nations and were rich in customs, culture, and identity. 

As the US expanded its territory, it engaged in the wholesale slaughter of entire tribes. For those tribes that negotiated or worked with the US in some capacity, the government often signed treaties. These treaties basically promised the tribe would avoid slaughter if they relocated to new lands completely separate from their ancestral home. With at least one tribe, the Cherokee, their treaty also promised them representation in the US Congress.

It’s been almost 200 years since the US signed a treaty with the Cherokee people and the tribe is demanding the US fulfill one of its promises.

The Cherokee Nation announced Thursday that it intends to appoint a delegate to the US House of Representatives, asserting for the first time a right promised to the tribe in a nearly 200-year-old treaty with the federal government.

In a press release, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said, “As Native issues continue to rise to the forefront of the national dialogue, now is the time for Cherokee Nation to execute a provision in our treaties,” Chief Hoskin said.

“It’s a right negotiated by our ancestors in two treaties with the federal government and reaffirmed in the Treaty of 1866, and reflected in our Constitution. At Cherokee Nation, we are exercising our treaty rights and strengthening our sovereignty.” He added: ““The Cherokee Nation honors its treaties with the United States. Whether the United States will likewise honor its promises to the Cherokee Nation is a question that only its elected leaders can answer.” 

It was a historic step for the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation and its nearly 370,000 citizens, coming about a week after Chuck Hoskin Jr. was sworn in as principal chief of the tribe. The Cherokee Nation says it’s the largest tribal nation in the US and one of three federally recognized Cherokee tribes.

The move raises questions about what that representation in Congress would look like and whether the US will honor an agreement it made almost two centuries ago.

The Tribal Council has already sworn in it’s new delegates, including their representative to Congress.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.’s cabinet and Congressional delegate nominations were unanimously confirmed by the Council of the Cherokee Nation during a special meeting Thursday.

The council confirmed governmental cabinet positions including the Secretaries of State and Veterans Affairs, along with the Attorney General and Treasurer.

So who is their nominee to represent the tribe in Congress?

Before she became the Cherokee Nation’s vice president of government relations in 2014, Kim Teehee served as senior policy adviser for Native American affairs in President Barack Obama’s White House. Before that, she was already working in Congress as an adviser on indigenous issues.

“Kim Teehee will be a tremendous asset to our team as we work to strengthen and build on the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the United States and tribal nations,” Obama said in a 2009 statement that announced her appointment at the time. “She is rightly recognized as an outstanding advocate for Indian Country, and she will provide a direct interface at the highest level of my administration, assuring a voice for Native Americans during policy-making decisions.”

“This is a historic moment for Cherokee Nation and our citizens. I am truly humbled Chief Hoskin has nominated me for this extraordinary responsibility,” said Teehee, the tribe’s nominee for the position. “I remain supportive of his vision for the future of our tribal government and grateful for the opportunity to serve the great Cherokee Nation.”

Although the tribe is moving to get what’s owed to them, no one is quite sure what the representation in Congress might look like.

Hoskin told CNN that the position might look similar to the nonvoting representatives from the District of Columbia or U.S. territories like Puerto Rico. Currently, the Cherokee Nation comprises 370,000 people worldwide, according to its website, and Hoskin said the tribe is in an “unprecedented” position of strength.

The Treaty of Hopewell laid out the congressional provision in Article XII, stating, “That the Indians may have full confidence in the justice of the United States, respecting their interests, they shall have the right to send a deputy of their choice, whenever they think fit, to Congress.”

The tribe said that a third treaty from 1866 “reaffirms all previous treaties between the Cherokee Nation and the United States.”

For too long, US treaties with native tribes meant death, erasure, and lies. 

The history of treaties between the U.S. government and indigenous nations is a troubled one, often marked by breaches on the government’s side. 

Even when the treaties have been honored, they often resulted in tribal displacement.

According to Smithsonian magazine, the 1835 Treaty of New Echota (which the Cherokee Nation referenced in its announcement on Thursday) was used as grounds to remove the Cherokee from their lands along what became known as the Trail of Tears, a grueling journey that killed thousands. But the tribal leadership says that treaty and the 1785 Treaty of Hopewell granted the right to representation in Congress, a guarantee they now want to make good on.

Many on Twitter applauded the tribe’s decision to hold the US to it’s commitment.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

The Census Results Are In And Things Don’t Look Great For California & Other States

Things That Matter

The Census Results Are In And Things Don’t Look Great For California & Other States

Between 2010 and 2020, the United States experienced its second slowest growth rate in history. Although the country’s population has surpassed 331 million people for the first time, several states saw declining population numbers and will see their representation in Congress cut.

Did your state grow between 2010 and 2020? Or will it lose a seat in the House of Representatives? Here’s what you need to know.

The U.S. Census data is in and it’s a mixed bag for many states.

Perhaps the biggest news from the census data is that the country’s most populous state, California, will lose a seat in the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, several southern states (those that typically vote Republican) will gain representation as Texas adds two Congressional seats and Florida and North Carolina add one each.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s acting director, Ron Jarmin, reported the new state population counts at a virtual news conference. The long-awaited announcement has reset the balance of power for the next decade in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College, where each state’s share of votes is tied to its census numbers.

Other states that will see their representation shift include Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, New York, Michigan, and West Virginia, all of which will lose one seat. Oregon, Colorado and Montana will add a seat.

What does this mean for elections moving forward?

This data shows that the nation’s political center of gravity keeps shifting further to the Republican-led South and West. The census release marks the official beginning of the once-a-decade redistricting battles. The numbers released Monday, along with more detailed data expected later this year, will be used by state legislatures or independent commissions to redraw political maps to account for shifts in population.

Meanwhile, Americans continue to move to GOP-run states. For now, that shift provides the Republicans with the opportunity to shape new congressional districts to maximize the influence of their voters and have a major advantage in upcoming elections—possibly enough to win back control of the U.S. House.

But in the long term, it’s not clear the migration is good news for Republicans. Many of the fastest-growing states are increasingly competitive political battlegrounds where the new arrivals —including many young people and people of color— could at some point give Democrats an edge.

Do we know more about the demographic makeup of the country?

Not yet, that data will be released during the second census announcement later this year. The bureau plans to start releasing this information by Aug. 16. This data will also used to guide the distribution of an estimated $1.5 trillion a year in federal money for Medicare, Medicaid, education and other public services for local communities.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Here’s Why Now Is The Perfect Time To Return Native Lands To Their Rightful Caretakers

Things That Matter

Here’s Why Now Is The Perfect Time To Return Native Lands To Their Rightful Caretakers

The federal government has long been a poor caretaker of Native lands. Despite the numerous treaties that the United States has signed with Indigenous tribes over the years, our federal government has often failed to keep up their end of the bargain. Far too often promises aren’t kept and our Native communities are left to suffer. 

Along with the enslavement of Black Americans, this forced land takeover is one of the country’s most significant transgressions. Many of the biggest challenges facing Native communities today, from rampant poverty to lower social and economic mobility to health issues, can be traced to the attempted extermination and then assimilation of Native Americans through American land policy.

Native communities across the country deserve to take back their land.

Several recent high-profile legal cases in the United States have grappled with parts of this legacy. For instance, the Supreme Court ruled in 2020 in McGirt v. Oklahoma that roughly half of Oklahoma’s land lies within the jurisdictional boundary of a Native American reservation. The case was a victory for tribal sovereignty with major consequences for criminal and civil law within the territory. But it stopped short of implicating land issues.

Dozens of tribes across the United States are now pushing for land restoration. Take for example the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in Missouri. After being forced onto a small reservation of their ancestral lands at Fort Berthold in 1870, the government flooded more than a quarter of it. Now, these tribes are bogged down in legal battles just to get the federal government to uphold its former promises.

The nation’s chairman, Marx Fox points out that “We have been marginalized and pushed off our territory and for more than a century the federal government has attempted to steal what their own experts agree is rightfully ours.” 

With Biden’s pick for Interior secretary, the tide could be beginning to turn.

President Joe Biden’s pick for Interior secretary, Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) will be responsible for upholding the country’s treaties with Native Americans. Haaland should use her unique position to rectify one of the most damaging early Indian policies of the United States, which sought to break down tribes and assimilate natives: the systematic takeover of native land. 
The United States lags behind many other countries in the Americas in its treatment of indigenous land claims and indigenous legal and political autonomy. Canada has offered official apologies to First Nations and founded a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the legacy of its Indian Residential Schools and provide recommendations to further reconciliation with its indigenous groups. Colombia and Bolivia have granted native communities enormous reserves of lands, and Mexico has given indigenous communities living in ejidos greater self-governance and property rights. Now is the time for the United States to do the same.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com