In a primary election Tuesday, voters in the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes passed a referendum to amend the sovereign tribal nation’s constitution to decrease the blood quantum requirement for citizenship from one-fourth to one-eighth.
The ballot question regarding Cheyenne-Arapaho citizenship passed with 64.18 percent of the vote, receiving 1,308 ballots in favor to 730 ballots against the measure.
Also on Tuesday’s ballot were elections for governor, four legislative seats and three seats on the nation’s Election Commission. All the incumbents on the ballot finished first in their races, and the first-place finishers will face the runners up in a general election set for Nov. 2, regardless of the margin of victory.
The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are headquartered in Concho, Oklahoma. The tribe’s legislative branch consists of one legislator from each of the four Arapaho Districts and four Cheyenne Districts. Legislators are elected to staggered four-year terms and can serve up to three terms in office.
Governor expects greater Cheyenne-Arapaho citizenship
Until now, full citizenship has constitutionally required “1/4, or more, degree of blood of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.” With the passage of the referendum, the amount will be changed to one-eighth.
Full citizenship includes eligibility to vote, qualification for tribal services and benefits, and the ability to serve on the Tribal Council.
Incumbent Gov. Reggie Wassana said changing the blood quantum requirement will help bolster citizenship numbers.
In the past two years, according to Wassana, the number of citizens in the tribe has remained steady, at around 12,900, as the number of deaths is nearly the same as the number of newly enrolled citizens. The number has never reached over the 13,000 mark, Wassana said.
“If we didn’t drop to one-eighth degree of blood, our numbers would eventually start declining,” Wassana said.
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Wassana said he expects anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 citizens — or possibly more — to enroll within the next year or two as a result of the constitutional amendment.
There have been unsuccessful efforts in the past to change blood quantum requirements. Wassana said opposition had come from worries about the splitting of tribal resources.
Wassana explained that older generations within the tribe were often unable to develop their own resources as a result of being placed in boarding schools. Over the years, when the idea of lowering the blood quantum has come up, he said, some feared that resources would be spread thin as a result of the change.
Wassana said he believes younger Cheyenne and Arapaho citizens are learning to be “independent and self-sufficient,” and as a result, their reliance on tribal resources will not be as great as it was for their parents and grandparents.
“Now people take pride in their heritage. They want their grandkids to be on the rolls. I believe that’s why you see the vote come out the way it did,” Wassana said.
Wassana, Miles finish atop gubernatorial race
Wassana is running for a second term as governor in this election, on a joint ticket with Lt. Gov. Gib Miles. The pair finished first, receiving 1,261 votes, making up 60.86 percent of the votes cast.
In second place were Wilma Blackbear and Roberta Hamilton, who received 340 votes and will face Wassana and Miles in the general election.
Cornell Sankey and Jeffrey Elizondo, as well as Betty Gould and Debra Gould, were also on the ballot. They received 286 votes and 185 votes, respectively.
According to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Tribune, the Tribal Council lowered the governor’s salary from $180,003.20 to $150,000 in accordance with the tribe’s constitution.
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Annual Tribal Council Meeting Resolution item #5: Tribal Council to decrease the Governor’s salary from 180,003.20 to 150,000 in accordance with Article VII Section 5., of the Constitution, results are:
Yes – 108
No – 67
Abstain – 13
— C&A Tribal Tribune (@CATribalTribune) October 2, 2021
Cheyenne District 2 incumbent George Woods received 136 votes, enough to place first in an eight-candidate race. Woods will see Frances White Thunder — who received 107 votes — in the Nov. 2 general election.
There were six other candidates in the race: Milan Roman Nose received 73 votes, Melvin Roman Nose received 67 votes, Clifton Ellis received 42 votes, Alan Fletcher received 28 votes, Rollin (Eddie) Hamilton received 27 votes, and Chris Patton received 20 votes.
In Cheyenne District 4, incumbent Byron Byrd received 63 votes in a five-candidate race. Byrd will face Delfred White Crow — who received 37 votes — in the general election.
The were three other candidates in the race: Tiffany Bullcoming received 26 votes, Francine Bullcoming received 20 votes, and Rosemary Armendariz received 12 votes.
Arapaho District 1 was Tuesday’s only race with no incumbents. Debra Woolworth finished first in the district, with 56 votes, and Diane Willis came in second, with 53 votes.
The other two candidates in the race were Kenny Williams, who received 41 votes, and Roni Allen Villeda who received 37 votes.
Incumbent Kendrick Sleeper topped the Arapaho District 2 race, receiving 221 votes. Sleeper will face Juaquin Lonelodge, who received 86 votes, in the runoff election.
The two other candidates in the race were Dale Hamilton, who received 73 votes, and Myra Campbell, who received 23 votes.
Election Commission Results
Cheyenne District 1 incumbent Sandra Hinshaw came in first in the district’s election commission race, with 110 votes. She will face Frederick Blackbear, who received 65 votes, in the general election.
A third candidate, Janet Bullcoming, received 61 votes.
Arapaho District 3 incumbent Patricia Smothers received 61 votes ahead of the second-place finisher, Doris Thunderbull, who received 38 votes.
The third candidate in the race, Cody Zimmer, received 26 votes.
Cheyenne District 3 incumbent Ramona Welch placed first, with 176 votes, and will face challenger Jason Hines, who received 122 votes, in the general election.
A third candidate, Angeline Lime, received 117 votes.