Cherokee Nation Is Fighting for a Seat in Congress

Teehee points out there are quite a few notable House leaders on both sides of the aisle who are seen as champions of Indian Country. Among Democrats, she highlighted Representatives Kai Kahele, a Native Hawaiian, and Alaska’s newly elected Mary Peltola, who is Yup’ik. For Republicans, there’s Representative Tom Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus. Teehee tells me “all of Indian Country comes to him with their needs, even though he’s elected by the constituents in his district.”

Peltola’s historic special election victory in September marks the first time that an Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and Native American are all House members. It’s a memorable milestone, but Peltola still acknowledges there are plenty of obstacles to overcome throughout Indian Country as she faces reelection in November. “There are many examples of the government not honoring its word to tribes across the nation,” Peltola says in a statement, “and I will work tirelessly in Congress to ensure that does not happen again in the future.”

Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands each possess a nonvoting delegate. Like them, Teehee wouldn’t be able to participate in any House votes if she’s successfully appointed, but she still sees value in gaining “a seat at the table where only a few sit when it comes to making decisions, formulating laws and policies that affect us.” Her priorities wouldn’t be solely focused on Cherokees, but broader Indian Country by becoming a permanent Indigenous presence on Capitol Hill.