On December 29, 1835, the Treaty of New Echota (TNE), the Echota is the capital city of the Cherokee Nation, new and old, was agreed to by the United States government as a “minority party” that at least superficially passed muster (at least with the US) as a valid, binding representative of the Cherokee Nation.
On September 4, 2019 Kimberly Teehee, Native American activist, advocate and member of the Cherokee Nation became the Nation’s first official US Congress delegate fulfilling one of the promises of the TNE yet previously left vacant for nearly 200 years. Delegate Teehee will not have an actual vote. Her principal roles will be as an observer and adviser. Of course, appointing a Native American to Congress was not the main purpose of the TNE. It was, as it turns out, to facilitate the forcible removal of the Cherokee tribe from their native lands in what was, in 1835, the relatively new state of Georgia, to an area far west, to the territory that would one day be known as Oklahoma.
You see, gold was discovered in Georgia. (Yes, long before the California Gold Rush was. I guess it was the ‘not quite so great Georgia Gold Rush’.) This prompted the good citizens of the USA to demand the enforcement of their “state’s rights” as the basis of removing that which stood between them and the promise of El Dorado. Namely, the Cherokee Nation.
When the idea of relocation was first brought to the attention of our then Sixth President, John Quincy Adams, a supporter of native rights, he was initially reluctant to move forward. However, subsequent threats of doom, death and destruction moved Adams to begin negotiations with the Tribal Leaders, Cherokee Chief John Ross, to be precise. Not unexpectedly, Ross was cool to the idea.
All of this changed when, in 1829, Andrew Jackson became our seventh President. Jackson, a noted racist and overall psychopath (meaning he did his own killing, often in broad daylight), would have none of these meandering negotiations. So, without Ross, and with a minority group called the “Treaty Party” (you can’t make this stuff up) headed by a minor tribal figure by the name of Major Ridge, who not surprisingly claimed to speak for far more than the actual fraction of the Cherokee Nation his party, in fact, represented. In 1830 Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law conveniently allowing him to relocate the Cherokee west, by force, if necessary.
Eventually, the TNE was worked out between the Federal Government and the sort of but not really Cherokee Nation for their ancestral land that somehow the settlers of Georgia now claimed all rights into, of and about and therefore, non-inclusive, of course. In return of $5 million in compensation, the Cherokee agreed to move west of the Mississippi ceding their previously owned land within the Georgia borders. They were given a two-year grace period to move voluntarily. Only approximately 2,000 Cherokee left. When time ran out, the roughly 16,000 Cherokee remaining were forced off their land by 7,000 troops. The Cherokee were not allowed to take any of their belongings. Many did not have shoes. Most did not have but minimal clothing.
The forced 1000-mile relocation (please note that the power of relocating the population now resides within the emergency powers of FEMA) would begin in 1838 and would continue through the winter. The US government knew this. They went through with it anyway. In the end, the Trail of Tears took the lives of 4,000 people most of whom died of cold, hunger and disease. Some still call it a relocation program. Still others, a carefully planned and executed act of genocide. About time they got that Congressional representation without a vote, don’t you think?
To see what the Cherokee Nation thinks, please visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian @