Skip to Content

The Cherokee Nation Starts the Process for a Congressional Delegation: raceAhead

Native American Presidential Forum buttonsNative American Presidential Forum buttons
Buttons available at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum on Aug. 20, 2019, in Sioux City, Iowa. Stephen Maturen—Getty Images

Hi everyone! Fortune commentary editor Tamara El-Waylly here, covering for Ellen for a few days.

The Cherokee Nation is making preparations to send a congressional delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. It would be the first-ever delegation, though the right to send a delegate is enshrined in the Treaty of New Echota. (The treaty also served as justification to force the Cherokee peoples from their homelands).

"At Cherokee Nation, we are exercising our treaty rights and strengthening our sovereignty," recently elected Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.

As a “first step” in what will likely be “a long process,” Hoskin requested a Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting to consider Kimberly Teehee as a delegate. Teehee was senior policy advisor for Native American affairs for former President Barack Obama. 

Hoskin, in explaining why the move was being made now, pointed to how Native issues are moving “to the forefront of the national dialogue."

Several candidates—like Bernie Sanders, Julián Castro, and most recently Elizabeth Warren—have released proposals addressing Native and Indigenous issues.

And, in case you missed it, the first Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum was held in Sioux Falls, Iowa, earlier this week. As Mark Trahant, editor of digital news Indian Country Today, told NPR: “[The forum] elevates Native American issues to a level that just hasn't been part of the conversation before. Instead of having candidates do their normal stump speech, they're really forced to address things that don't get talked about very much, like treaty rights and the role of the Indian health system.”

And over the forum’s two days, the participating presidential candidates addressed a range of issues. Author and presidential candidate Marianne Williamson said she’d take down the Oval Office portrait of Andrew Jackson, calling its placement “one of the greatest insults.” 

Sen. Bernie Sanders received applause for his promise to cancel all student debt, and make community college free. The difficulties regarding access to education, particularly for Native and Indigenous communities, were actually major issues addressed by most, says Vice. For context: Only 13% of Native Americans have a college degree, compared to 28% of Americans. 

And, after much criticism over her heritage claims, Sen. Elizabeth Warren apologized: “I know that I have made mistakes. I am sorry for harm that I have caused. I have listened and I have learned.”

Editor’s note: Yesterday’s essay was corrected to more accurately portray the information provided by the Census Bureau to the Department of Homeland Security.

On Point

In a Chinese factory, teenagers are being ‘drafted’ to make Amazon Alexas Leaked documents show that teenagers between the ages of 16 to 18 are working overtime, and sometimes overnight, to make Amazon Alexa devices. While those who are at least 16 can work in factories in China, they are not supposed to work overtime (or at night). And, according to the Guardian: “[It’s] part of a controversial and often illegal attempt to meet production targets.” The teenagers, who are all students, are being labelled as interns, while teachers are being paid by the factory, to take them to work. More than 1,000 students have been drafted, apparently, to “supplement staffing levels.” In many cases, students were pressured to work extra hours, and in cases were students were “uncooperative,” teachers were requested to “encourage” them to stay. Guardian

In Florida, a new law means about 82% of returning citizens would be unable to exercise their right to vote This reverses progress recently gained through Amendment 4, which restored voting rights for most people who have committed a felony and served their time (it excludes people convicted of murder or felony sex offenses). But Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed Senate Bill 7066 into law. This new law, according to Palm Beach Post, “requires felons whose voting rights were thought to have been restored” to pay “all fines, fees, and court-ordered financial restitution before they can register to vote.” According to a preliminary study, 82% of formerly incarcerated people would be unable to register due to the financial requirement. It also found that this would disproportionately affect black voters, especially. Palm Beach Post

On Background

Reminder: King Leopold was ‘a racist monster’ King Leopold, who reigned over Belgium from 1865 to 1909, killed about 15 million Africans in the Congo (present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo). That was approximately half their population. Leopold colonized and forced the Bantu people to produce ivory (and then rubber), and if they were unable to meet “impossible quotas,” Michael Coard writes, “he’d have their hands, arms, and/or legs chopped off, have them raped, and/or have them murdered.” Leopold’s murderous brutality is highlighted in fiction and non-fiction, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Crime of the Congo, and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. And, by Michael Coard in the Philadelphia Tribune. Philadelphia Tribune

Many Rohingya child refugees still lack access to education Around 25,000 Rohingya children, from 4 to 14 years old, are not in any learning program, according to a UNICEF report. While 280,000 children are gaining some form of education, the gap shows that many children are missing the opportunity to obtain an education. The situation is worse for children 15 and older: Around 97% are “not enrolled in any type of learning facility.” It’s been two years since hundreds of thousands of Rohingya were forced to flee Myanmar, and conditions in refugee camps remain difficult. And those without proper opportunities, the report emphasizes, are more vulnerable to trafficking. Without education, “the hopes of a generation of children and adolescents are at stake,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore says. UN News

Quote

“That those tribes can not exist surrounded by our settlements and in continual contact with our citizens is certain. They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear.”

—President Andrew Jackson, from his Fifth Annual Message (1833)