Cherokee Nation, with 10 Oklahoma Tribal Casinos, Pushing for Congressional Representation

Posted on: August 26, 2019, 12:36h. 

Last updated on: August 26, 2019, 08:36h.

In a historic move, the Cherokee Nation — whose Cherokee Nation Entertainment (CNE) operates 10 Oklahoma tribal casinos — announced last week that it would appoint a delegate to serve as its representative in Congress. Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. nominated Kim Teehee for the position.

Kim Teehee speaks during a press conference announcing her nomination to become the Cherokee Nation’s first Congressional delegate. With 10 Oklahoma casinos, such representation could be impactful for tribal gaming. (Image:

Teehee’s appointment will be brought up for a vote at a Council of the Cherokee Nation special meeting on Thursday. If approved, it will mark the first time the Cherokee will send a representative to Washington.

Hoskin, who was elected by the Cherokee, said the appointment is part of his first 100 days initiative. He added the right for the representation dates to treaties between the US and Cherokee tribes signed in the 18th century.

Besides the Cherokee, only the Choctaw received the right to such representation in its treaty.

At Cherokee Nation, we are exercising our treaty rights and strengthening our sovereignty,” he said. “We know this is just the beginning and there is much work ahead, but we are being thorough in terms of implementation and ask our leaders in Washington to work with us through this process and on legislation that provides the Cherokee Nation with the delegate to which we are lawfully entitled.”

It remains uncertain if Congress will accept Teehee as a delegate. While each state has elected officials in both the House and Senate, there are also non-voting delegates in the House. Besides the District of Columbia, delegates also represent Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and US Virgin Islands. While they cannot vote on the House floor, they may hold seats in committees and place votes there.

With nearly 300,000 residents, the Cherokee Nation is the largest tribe in the US, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Most of its members live in a 14-county area of northeast Oklahoma, which includes parts of the Tulsa metropolitan area.

Cherokee Interests

If Teehee receives a seat, she may become an influential voice on tribal matters — including gaming — on Capitol Hill.

According to the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), there are 488 tribal casinos and gaming facilities in the US. Tribal casinos generated $39.07 billion in revenues and more than 766,000 jobs.

The nation owns Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB), which runs CNE, a gaming and hospitality company. Among its properties, CNE operates 10 casinos, including Hard Rock Tulsa, and Will Rogers Downs, a horse track just outside Tulsa.

CNE is a major revenue producer for CNB. In fiscal year 2017, CNB generated $1.02 billion in revenue. Of that, CNE businesses produced $666 million.

Earlier this month, officials in Pope County, Ark., announced their support for the Cherokee company’s plans to build Legends Resort and Casino Arkansas, a $225 million development in partnership with international hospitality company Legends.

CNE competitors, including Gulfside Casino Partnership and Warner Gaming, have raised questions with the decision, though.

The proposal still requires approval from the Arkansas Racing Commission.

About Teehee

Teehee, who serves as the nation’s vice president of government relations, is no stranger to Washington.

She served as a senior adviser to US Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Michigan), who served as the co-chairman of the House Native American Caucus. President Obama appointed her as the country’s first senior policy advisor for Native American affairs in his Domestic Policy Council.

“Kim Teehee has worked for years advocating in Congress, on a bipartisan basis, for the interests of Cherokee Nation and is supremely qualified for this post,” Chief Hoskin said. “We are eager to take the recommendation before the Council of the Cherokee Nation and work with our Congressional delegation from Oklahoma to move this historic appointment forward.”