…as long as it isn’t Elizabeth Warren, of course.
Citing treaties with the U.S. government signed in the 18th and 19th centuries, the new elected chief the Cherokee Nation is insisting that the tribe get a delegate to Congress for the first time in history.
“These treaties are sacred. They mean something. There’s no expiration date on them,” said Chuck Hoskin Jr., chief of the Cherokee Nation. What I’m asking is for the government of the United States to keep its word.”
You mean, unlike with all those other treaties the U.S. signed with Native American tribes? What’s this? Have you no respect for precedent, man?
Charles Gourd, the director of the Cherokee National Historical Society, told the news media that he and others had wondered why no Cherokee Nation delegate had ever been seated in Congress despite assurances to that effect. He can’t be serious! If a delegate were finally seated, he and others might then wonder why that provision of a treaty was honored while so many others were breached or ignored at will.
The right for the Cherokee to send a “deputy” to represent them in the United States Congress was first assured by the Treaty of Hopewell of 1785, which defined Cherokee borders and promised certain protections in return. The right to send a “delegate” to the House of Representatives was specified affirmed in the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. The House has several nonvoting delegates, representing Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.
There are some logical and legal hurdles to giving the Cherokee a voice in the House, even though it is the only tribe with a treaty to support its claim. Other tribes, and there are a lot of them, would cry foul. There is also the question of why it has taken so long for the tribe to formally seek to have the U.S. live up to that part of the treaty. “We’ve talked about it, yes, but we hadn’t done anything about it because there were other things that had to be done to get to this point,” says Gourd. “In a real sense there was not a fully functioning government and there have been some growing pains. I think this is a measure of the maturity of our tribal government.”
That’s fine, but the first thing that jumped into my head when I read about this was laches, the legal doctrine which holds that if a party doesn’t assert a legal right or remedy for an unreasonable amount of time for good reason, that right or remedy no longer exists. “We just never got around to it” doesn’t have the ring of a persuasive excuse. Maybe laches doesn’t apply to treaties.
It shouldn’t matter, though. Not only should the Cherokee be represented in the House, they, like the District of Columbia (but not the others) should be voting members. It would be a step toward justice for Native Americans, an acknowledgment of their neglected rights, and as with ending the anomalous lack of meaningful Congressional representation for residents of D.C., it is the right thing to do.
Isn’t it? Here’s a poll: