The Cherokee Nation, the largest of the nearly 600 federally recognized Native American Tribes, seeks to send a delegate to Congress. It’s their right based on treaties signed in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The delegate would not vote, but would send a strong signal about the stature of the Cherokee Nation and all Native American Tribes, proponents told The New York Times.

The Cherokee right to send a deputy to represent them in Congress was first codified in the Treaty of Hopewell, 1785, with which the United States government defined Cherokee borders. Sending a deputy to the House of Representatives was codified in the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, which the government used as a legal basis to remove the Cherokee from their homelands—the Trail of Tears.

“These treaties are sacred. They mean something. There’s no expiration date on them,” said Chuck Hoskin Jr., chief of the Cherokee Nation, who last week announced he would fulfill a longstanding legal right to appoint a delegate to Congress. “What I’m asking is for the government of the United States to keep its word.”

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