Muscogee Nation primary election
The 2021 Muscogee Nation primary election was held Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. The Muscogee National Council office is located at Highway 75 and Loop 56 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. (Joe Tomlinson)

In Saturday’s Muscogee Nation primary election, three incumbents on the National Council won their races outright, one incumbent lost and three races will head to a Nov. 6 runoff election.

In addition, a ballot question on whether to enshrine Mvskoke Media’s independence — and funding access — into the Muscogee Nation Constitution passed with more than three-fourths of voters’ support, according to the unofficial results.

‘Citizens have spoken’: Cloud defeats Jones

Galen Cloud
Galen Cloud won McIntosh District Seat B in the Sept. 18, 2021, Muscogee Nation election. (Provided)

McIntosh District seat B incumbent Adam Jones III was seeking his fifth term in office, but he lost to challenger Galen Cloud. Cloud received 1,377 votes to Jones’ 1,089 votes.

Jones opposed the ratification of the independent press ballot question, sharing a Sept. 13 Facebook post from former Principal Chief James Floyd that criticized Mvskoke Media, the tribe’s media outlet.

Cloud works as a tribal historic preservation officer for the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, located in Okemah. In an Aug. 19 Facebook post, Cloud outlined his goals regarding the McGirt v. Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling: “expanding the police force, jails, (and) more judges for the case loads.”

During an interview with Mvskoke Media, Cloud said he would be willing to work with other legislators on the National Council to support medical marijuana, which he referred to as a “booming business.”

Late Saturday, Jones posted a link to the unofficial election results on his Facebook page, simply stating: “The citizens have spoken.”

Muscogee National Council representatives are elected to four-year terms. The results are unofficial until certified by the Muscogee Nation Election Board.

Independent press ballot question passes

Mvskoke Media
The Mvskoke Media office is located at 1010 E. Eufaula St. in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. (Tres Savage)

With 1,914 voting in favor (76.25 percent) and 596 voting against (23.75 percent), Muscogee Nation citizens ratified a ballot question Saturday that will amend the tribe’s constitution to provide permanent press protections and guarantee tribal funding for Mvskoke Media, the nation’s independent media outlet. The ballot question needed approval from two-thirds of those voting in order to be ratified into the Muscogee Nation Constitution.

Saturday’s vote concludes a tumultuous three years during which Muscogee Nation citizens saw Mvskoke Media’s free-press protections removed from and reinstated in the tribe’s code. Placing the protections in the constitution means any future attempt to repeal would require another vote of the citizenry.

On Nov. 8, 2018, the National Council voted 7-6 in an emergency meeting to repeal the tribe’s Free Press Act, which had been established in 2015. That vote placed Mvskoke Media under the executive branch’s Department of Commerce. Under the Department of Commerce, Mvskoke Media’s stories were sometimes edited by the executive branch before they were published, according to director Angel Ellis and managing editor Liz Gray.

James Floyd — principal chief at the time — appointed Secretary of the Nation and Commerce Elijah McIntosh to direct the tribe’s news outlet.

In a Sept. 13 Facebook post ahead of Saturday’s election, Floyd refuted the statements made by Ellis and Gray and criticized Mvskoke Media:

Incomplete, inaccurate, one-sided reporting by Mvskoke Media hurts all Muscogee citizens. Since I left office, they have never reached out to me before or after running stories about events that took place during my administration. I have kept silent, but I feel I must speak up to defend an honorable, dedicated past employee.

Mvskoke Media content had been used as a source by the opposition on the Murphy Case. Opponents were watching everything being communicated by everyone associated with Muscogee Nation. Eli McIntosh acted under my direction to make minor corrections to ensure accuracy of any further communication related to the pending US Supreme Court case. In this landmark case, even the smallest misstep could have cost us. Eli did his part to help the Muscogee (Creek) Nation get a ruling in our favor. Mvto, Elijah McIntosh.

In July 2020, Mvskoke Media’s press freedoms were restored statutorily in a 15-0 vote by the National Council. Now, following certification of Saturday’s election results, those press freedoms will be protected by a constitutional amendment.

Sunday morning, Ellis sent a statement to NonDoc regarding the ratification of the ballot question, which she called a “citizens mandate” for a “free press” that is not subject to “political influence.”

“Last night voters made a clear mandate. They want a transparent government, they value the role journalism plays in the exercise of sovereignty, and they wanted it enshrined in their highest doctrines of law,” Ellis said. “I sincerely hope the work done in our community catches on in every one of the Indigenous nations in this country and that we grab hold of roots by writing our own stories.”

Scott, Golden head to Okfuskee District runoff

In the Okfuskee District, incumbent Travis Scott — who has faced accusations of illegal transactions of more than $107,500 between his private business and Muscogee Nation business entities — finished ahead of his three challengers with 740 votes (30.1 percent). Scott will head to a Nov. 6 runoff election with challenger Sandra Golden, who received 608 votes (24.8 percent).

In a statement sent to NonDoc, Scott praised the ballot question’s passage.

“I appreciate the citizens taking time to vote not only for your representatives, however for the passing of the freedom of the press amendment,” Scott said. “It is imperative to have no governmental influence in our media. The citizens want to know and see the truth.”

Golden also provided a statement after the original publication of this post.

“I am so thankful to all the citizens who voted, especially because so many ignore it,” Golden said. “I am excited and glad so many chose me for this challenge. I am ready for the next round.”

Scott was released from his duties as a National Council representative in May. On Aug. 12, an impeachment session was held, where a directive that details the allegations against Scott was passed 14-0 by the National Council.

On Sept. 2, a decision and order was released by Muscogee Nation District Judge Stacy Leads that reinstated Scott’s duties as a Council representative and deemed the $50,000 fine designated against him as “unenforceable”.

The other two candidates in the Okfuskee District were Samuel Deere, who received 561 votes (22.8 percent), and Russell Wind who received 548 votes (22.3 percent).

Deere holds off Muskogee District challenger

Two-term incumbent Joyce Deere topped challenger Sandra Parish for the Muskogee District B seat with 1,296 votes over Parish’s 1,139 votes.

Okmulgee District heads to runoff election

In the four-candidate race for the Okmulgee District B seat, challenger Nelson Harjo (822 votes, 33.2 percent) and incumbent James Jennings (815 votes, 32.9 percent) will head to a Nov. 6 runoff election.

The other two candidates in the race, Terra Beaver and Lanissa Jack-Melton, received 520 votes and 320 votes, respectively.

Yahola-Osborn wins big in Tukvpvtce District

Incumbent Thomasene Yahola-Osborn (1,734 votes, 71 percent) won by a large margin over challenger Edwin Marshall (707 votes, 29 percent) to retain the Tukvpvtce District B seat.

Tiger and Gouge to runoff in Tulsa District

For the seven-candidate Tulsa District B seat, incumbent Lucian Tiger III (819 votes, 33 percent) and challenger Leonard Gouge (644 votes, 25.9 percent) will head to a Nov. 6 runoff election.

There were five other candidates in the race: Anthony Beaver (412 votes), Elizabeth Thompson (223 votes), Julian Watson (161 votes), Robert Hawkins (149 votes) and John Killingsworth (75 votes).

Randolph wins Wagoner District

Incumbent Mark Randolph retained his Wagoner District B seat by a near two-thirds margin, receiving 1,624 votes to challenger Diedra Thompson‘s 833 votes.

(Update: This article was updated at 9:25 a.m. Monday, Sept. 20, to include comment from Golden.)