Here’s something I didn’t know but should have: For more than 200 years, the Cherokee Nation has had the right to have a delegate be seated by the U.S. House of Representatives. They are the only tribal nation that has the ability to do so.
And they never have.
The seat was negotiated by treaty and is codified in both the U.S and Cherokee Constitutions. Though it is a non-voting seat, the position still has plenty of power and access associated with it. (The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have similar arrangements.)
And it goes back a long way. From the Cherokee Constitution:
“In accordance with Article 12 of the Treaty with the Cherokees, dated November 28, 1785 (Treaty of Hopewell), and Article 7 of the Treaty with the Cherokees dated December 29, 1835 (Treaty of New Echota), there shall be created the office of Delegate to the United States House of Representatives, appointed by the Principal Chief and confirmed by the Council.”
The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is the largest tribal nation in the U.S. It has more than 330,000 tribal citizens, 11,000 members and boasts a local economic impact of $1.5 billion annually, through enterprises ranging from entertainment venues to aerospace and defense.
Tribal representatives are already Beltway regulars, visibly walking the halls of power and lobbying for issues that matter to their communities. And two of Oklahoma’s five representatives in Congress are already tribal members: Tom Cole, of the Chickasaw Nation, and Markwayne Mullin of the Cherokee Nation. (Both are republicans.)
But the difference between a lobbyist and a seated representative is more than just optics: The representative is paid for by the federal government. Their right to representation is official, and the influence they can wield within committees is significant.
It’s an interesting idea that’s long overdue. The incoming president has a history of using racist tactics against Indian casino owners in his previous work as a developer, and has indicated that the drilling at Standing Rock will resume on his watch. And in general, he has exhibited little interest in previously negotiated commitments of any kind. But, say the experts, he can’t mess with treaties.
Tristan Ahtone, a journalist and member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, has a pretty thorough analysis here. His point, and it’s a radical one, is that the seat could become an opportunity for inclusion at the highest levels:
“To support tribal nations in a meaningful way, one solution could be to seat a Cherokee delegate, but perhaps a more radical approach is for the United States to rethink how it deals with indigenous people at the government level.
“[T]here are precedents both at home and abroad where governments make it a point to include Native people in the political process. Given its history with Native America, it’s unrealistic to expect the United States to do the same, despite that there are nearly 570 sovereign, tribal nations within its borders that have unique wants and needs. However, a single, constitutionally backed delegate, like the one guaranteed by law to the Cherokee Nation, could be a start down that path. And with an incoming president who, at the moment, appears deaf to Native American concerns, it may be the ideal time for Indian Country to advocate for representation at the federal level.”
It would certainly get my vote.
|Gospel singer Kim Burrell gets a public lesson in inclusion|
|Kim Burrell's song from the new movie Hidden Figures, “I See a Victory” with Pharrell Williams, was poised to become an anthem of inspiration. But after a video of the singer delivering a deeply homophobic sermon emerged, a public backlash began. Then, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres announced that Burrell had been disinvited to perform on her daytime program. But the best "lesson" came from writer Ashon Crawley, did a remarkable job unpacking the complexity of being a gay person of color trying to exist within a Christian community that condemns you with impunity. “It’s easy to for them to call a sex act 'sinful,' but what could they call sitting next to someone on a couch, sharing in wonder and joy, at getting to know more about them?" he said in a Twitter thread.|
|Ama Marfo, startup founder, invented a service that people actually need|
|It’s a simple idea that would have helped Marfo, a cash-strapped Chicago college student, get home to Ghana for the holidays: An online platform that allows people to pay for expensive flights in installments. For the two-thirds of millennials without a credit card, or the many millions living paycheck to paycheck, Airfordable is high-tech version of a layaway system. But what’s best about Marfo's story is her journey: She learned to code just enough to be able to communicate with her technical co-founder. And, she’s nailed the lofty talk, with an inclusive twist. “We’re on a global mission to democratize air travel for everyone.”|
|The Younger Empire|
|Women-only colleges are producing inclusive leaders|
|I hadn’t considered some of the unique benefits associated with women-only colleges, but this piece from Insight Into Diversity is food for thought. Though there are only 50 such institutions remaining in the U.S., and they produce only 2% of all college graduates, some 20% of women in Congress graduated from one, as do an inordinately high number of fast-rising women executives. Women-only colleges also outpace similarly sized institutions in racial diversity and many have been leaders in developing inclusive policies and programs.|
|Insight Into Diversity|
The Woke Leader
|Bearing witness to bodies, water, and life at Standing Rock|
|Toni Jensen (Métis) has written one of the most stirring essays I’ve read in ages, and I’ve been struggling mightily to describe it in a way that does it justice. In a style that brims with poetry and metaphor, she has managed to illuminate the violence of life around the oil and extraction industries in ways that are deceptively serene. And she links a history of cultural trauma with reportage of the situation at Standing Rock in surprising ways: The men in riot gear are not different from the men who abuse indigenous women; the officials with handguns and false smiles are not there to protect the vulnerable and never have been. “See the fires that elders light to keep warm. See the water extinguish those fires. See the children seeing it,” she writes. A must read.|
|Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ was written by a really, really interesting man|
|Billie Holiday’s extraordinary anti-racism protest song was back in the news when pop singer Rebecca Ferguson cheekily offered to perform it at Donald Trump’s inauguration. Thanks to news and the algorithm gods, this 2012 story about the song’s composer has resurfaced. Turns out Abel Meerpool was a white, Jewish, Bronx-born teacher, poet, and social activist, who wrote the song after becoming haunted by a photo of a lynching. A club owner pal gave the song to Holiday, and the rest is history. But that’s not even the strangest part.|
|President Obama publishes a presidential guide to criminal justice reform in the Harvard Law Review|
|In a 56 page article, Obama outlines the state of U.S. criminal justice, a system that he says is in urgent need of reform. He explores the tools that presidents – he doesn’t identify which ones – can use to effect meaningful change at the state and local level, including steps to reduce gun violence and address addiction. He specifically cites a “legacy of racism that continues to drive inequality" in the system. “It takes young people who made mistakes no worse than my own and traps them in an endless cycle of marginalization and punishment,” he says.|
|Harvard Law Review|