In honor of Women's History Month, we continue our celebration of inspirational women by honoring Kim Teehee, a lawyer, politician, and Native American rights activist.
Teehee, a Cherokee citizen, was born March 2, 1966, in Chicago, Illinois, but grew up in Claremore, Oklahoma, within the Cherokee Nation boundaries. She dedicated her career to the Cherokee people and advancing Native American rights issues, starting in the 1980s with an internship for Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller. In 1998, she served as Senior Advisor to Rep. Dale Kildee of Michigan, the Native American Caucus Co-Chair. As a staffer on the caucus, Teehee's contributed to policies on a myriad of Native American Issues.
President Barack Obama selected Teehee as the first Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council in 2009. She served the council for three years, creating and implementing policies addressing tribal sovereignty, education, environmental justice, and healthcare. During this time, she was instrumental in advancing the Violence Against Women Act provision that expanded the judicial understanding of tribal sovereignty. Through this work, tribes can now hold non-tribal citizens accountable for violent crimes against Native American women and children on tribal land.
In 2019, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. nominated Teehee as the first Cherokee Nation delegate-designee to the United States House of Representatives, a right established in the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. She is waiting for Congress to fulfill the treaty right and seat her. Once seated, she will be the first tribal nation delegate to serve in Congress.
"Even though I'd be representing the governmental interests of the Cherokee Nation, I imagine—just as Indian Country leans on politicians like Deb Haaland to advocate for them more broadly—I wouldn't see myself as any different than being an extra voice to not only represent the governmental interests of my tribe but also to aid in advancing Indian Country generally," said Teehee (Leach, 2019).
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