Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Discovery of the Day: Indian Delegates to Congress

Today I learned an interesting historical tidbit about America's relationship with Indian tribes: In several early treaties, we offered Tribes a "delegate" to Congress. A treaty with the Delaware in 1778 offered "a representation in Congress" to a potential envisioned confederation between the Delaware and other tribes (with the Delaware presumed to be the head of that newly created state). Similarly, a 1775 treaty with the Cherokee allowed them "to send a deputy of their choice" to Congress. Both of these predate the end of the Revolutionary War, but the 1836 Treaty of New Echota between the United States and the Cherokee Nation contains similar language applicable to the modern Congress:
The Cherokee nation having already made great progress in civilization and deeming it important that every proper and laudable inducement should be offered to their people to improve their condition as well as to guard and secure in the most effectual manner the rights guarantied to them in this treaty, and with a view to illustrate the liberal and enlarged policy of the Government of the United States towards the Indians in their removal beyond the territorial limits of the States, it is stipulated that they shall be entitled to a delegate in the House of Representatives of the United States whenever Congress shall make provision for the same.
The Treaty of New Echota was the basis by which Congress justified removal of the Cherokee to present-day Oklahoma (the notorious "trail of tears"). And the delegate provision has never been implemented.

Still, it is an interesting fact of American and American Indian history that I was hitherto unaware of. The more you know!

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