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Eastern Band of Cherokee says all three federally recognized Cherokee tribes deserve federal representation

Lilly Knoepp

Last week, Cherokee Nation went to Capitol Hill to ask that a nearly 200-year-old treaty be honored to give the tribe representation in the federal government.

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin explained to a House of Representatives committee that the Treaty of New Echota gave the United States Cherokee land. The controversial treaty led to the deaths of thousands of Cherokees on the Trail of Tears. It also promised representation.

“Cherokee Nation has adhered to it’s obligations of the treaty. It’s time for this body to honor this promise and seat our delegate in the House of Representatives,” said Hoskin.

In his statement, Hoskin said that Cherokee Nation is the only tribe that should be given representation based on the Treaty of New Echota. Cherokee Nation has already chosen a delegate who would represent them: Kim Teehee. She would be a nonvoting House delegate.

“This right is unique to Cherokee Nation, seating our delegate would not open the flood gates for other tribal nations,” said Hoskin.

However, there are two other federally recognized Cherokee tribes:

The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB) in Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (ECBI) here in Western North Carolina.

When the treaty was signed in 1835 there was only one Cherokee tribe, explains Eastern Band Principal Chief Richard Sneed.

“I don't think it's ever appropriate for there only to be one voice in the room when in our case, there are three distinct federally recognized tribes that at the time of that treaty signing. We're all the Cherokee nation, lower case 'n', not Nation upper case 'n' that we have today.” said Sneed.

Sneed says he hopes that Congress takes the time to figure out the appropriate process for tribal representation.

“I'm more in favor of establishing a process because if we establish a meaningful process, then that creates precedent for other tribes that have that same provision in historic treaties with the United States government. It creates a path for them to follow,” said Sneed.

While Sneed says all three tribes deserve representation, he’s glad that the Cherokee Nation has taken this step.

“We look forward to working with Congress and other tribes to ensure that the government, US government, honors its promises to all Cherokee people,” said Sneed.

The Eastern Band sent a letter about their right to representation to be part of Congressional hearing.

Sneed says there haven’t been any moves by Tribal Council to choose a representative. The United Keetoowah Band chose a representative in 2021.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.