Kimberly Teehee is a politician, advocate, and current Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation since 2019. She previously served as the first Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Cherokee Nation from 2017 to 2019, and served as senior policy advisor for Native American affairs in the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2012.
Early Life and Education
Kimberly Teehee was born on March 2, 1966 in Chicago, Illinois. Due to a federal program under the Indian Relocation Act of 1956, Teehee’s parents were moved to Chicago. Although Teehee was born in this city, she grew up in Claremore, Oklahoma. She became a member of the Cherokee Nation and was highly involved in Cherokee Nation affairs. Teehee went on to attend Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma for her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Following this, she earned her law degree (Juris Doctor) from the University of Iowa, College of Law. During her time in law school, Teehee served in leadership positions with the National Native American Law Student Association and the Iowa Native American Law Student Association. Recognized for her work, she received the Bureau of National Affairs Award as a student.
Early Political Career
In the early 1980s, Teehee began working actively in politics. She started her career as an intern for former chief Wilma Mankiller. Mankiller was the first and only woman to become chief of the Cherokee Nation, who often mentored young people within the nation. Teehee was influenced early on by Mankiller’s strength, leadership, and her influential friends. One of Mankiller’s best friends, Gloria Steinem, also welcomed Teehee. She said that both of those women “planted seeds firmly in me that I pay forward today to teenagers in rural communities.” Once in Washington DC, Teehee became a vocal leader and advocate for Native American rights. She held important positions on the Democratic National Committee and the Presidential Inaugural Committee for President Bill Clinton’s second Inauguration as the Deputy Director of Native American Outreach.
Advisor in the House of Representatives
For nearly twelve years, Teehee was Senior Advisor to the U.S. House of Representatives Native American Caucus Co-Chair, Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI). Serving the bi-partisan Caucus she worked on a wide array of issues particularly affecting Native Americans, including appropriations, education, economic development, energy, health care, housing, agriculture, and transportation.
Teehee was appointed first Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council by President Obama, where she served from 2009-2012. Teehee worked with federal agencies to develop and implement policies focused on environmental justice, tribal consultation, tribal self-determination, economic growth, public safety, health care, and education and to resolve longstanding disputes.
Teehee’s work helped lead to a Presidential Memorandum on tribal consultation and an Executive Order on indigenous education. She further the administration’s support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, aided by fellow Cherokee Nation member Keith Harper, Ambassador the the UN Human Rights Council.
Teehee additionally also played a key role in three White House Tribal Nations Conferences and led a government-wide team to ensure compliance with the administration's tribal policy.
Delegate to the House of Representatives
Tenure as Delegate
The 2019 Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma principal chief election was held on Saturday, June 1st, 2019. Teehee defeated Tribal Councilman David Walkingstick and Tribal Councilman Dick Lay in the election. Teehee became the first woman to serve as Principal Chief since Wilma Mankiller in 1985.
Legal Cases and Tribal Sovereignty
Staff and Cabinet
|Deputy Principal Chief||Bryan Warner|
|Chief of Staff|
|General Counsel to the Principal Chief||Sara Hill|
|Director of Federal Relations||Stephanie Birdwell|
|Attorney General||Kieth Harper|
|Secretary of State||Tina Glory Jordan|
|Secretary of Natural Resources||Chad Harsha|
|Secretary of Veterans Affairs||S. Joe Crittenden|
|Director of the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service||Shannon Buhl|