Lucian Tiger III is seeking his third term as a Muscogee National Council representative of the Tulsa District, but not without controversy.
In April, Tiger faced an accusation of a housing violation related to use of the Muscogee Nation’s mortgage assistance program. In 2017, he faced an accusation of sexual harassment from Rep. Dode Barnett, who accused him of slapping her on the butt before a 2015 Council meeting.
On Nov. 13, Tiger will face challenger Leonard Gouge in the sovereign nation’s general election for the Council’s Tulsa District B seat.
Gouge is a retired 28-year Army veteran with multiple foreign deployments. He has spent 31 years working in tribal child welfare and more than two decades working with tribal communities, according to his Facebook page.
Tiger previously served as the speaker of the Muscogee National Council from 2016 to 2019. He ran for principal chief in 2019, finished third in that race and disputed the results.
In September’s primary, Tiger finished with 33 percent support (819 votes), and Gouge received 25.9 percent support (644 votes).
The Tulsa District includes most of Tulsa County and the cities of Tulsa, Jenks and Glenpool, among others. Each of the eight districts represented in the tribe’s National Council features an A and a B seat, which are up for grabs in alternating elections. Representatives serve four-year terms on the Muscogee National Council, and all eligible voters are able to vote in each council district race.
In-person voting on Election Day (Nov. 13) runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early in-person voting on Nov. 9 and Nov. 10 also runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Absentee ballots must be received by the Okmulgee post office by 11 a.m. on Nov. 13. For this election, the tribe has provided absentee voters with prepaid U.S. Postal Service priority express mail envelopes. (During the September primary, 57 percent of absentee ballots returned by voters were received after the 11 a.m. deadline. The National Council extended the general election date from Nov. 6 to Nov. 13.)
NonDoc reached out to both candidates. Neither Gouge nor Tiger responded to messages seeking interviews. As a result, the following information about Gouge’s campaign comes from a candidate interview conducted by Mvskoke Media, the tribe’s independent news organization. Tiger has not conducted a candidate interview with Mvskoke Media.
This year’s National Council elections mark the first election cycle since the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed existence of the Muscogee Reservation in July 2020, a decision with ramifications that tribal leaders are working to implement.
Planned legislation on tribal codes, McGirt v. Oklahoma
During his interview with Mvskoke Media, Leonard Gouge spoke on his legislative priorities if elected to the Tulsa District seat.
“One of the things I’d like to see happen is have the codes updated,” Gouge said. “I think it was back in 2009 or 2010 was the last time those were updated. So it’s way past due. I think that needs to occur.”
Gouge added that there will be obstacles in updating those codes.
“There is money needed, funds needed to take on that endeavor,” Gouge said. “There is also needs for the tax codes to be addressed and updated to meet our needs as a reservation now. And there is also the need to have funds to have attorneys to address tax issues that we’re trying to propose and work out for the reservation, versus what the state of Oklahoma is trying to do.”
Gouge then spoke on the tribe’s need for beefing up its court system following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which affirmed the Muscogee reservation.
“I’m sure we’re going to need additional courts around the reservation, other than just in Okmulgee, Oklahoma,” Gouge said. “We’re also going to need prosecutors, more full-time judges to be on board, to address the influx of cases coming in now that we have to work with.”
‘I don’t think we should be paying taxes to the state’
When asked by Mvskoke Media about Muscogee Nation citizens paying state taxes, Gouge said he does not believe Muscogee citizens should, but that he alone could not answer the question.
“I don’t think we should be paying taxes to the state, but that’s just me saying that,” Gouge said. “We need the legal team in here to enforce that. If they need the legislation to support them, allow them to give the authority to do that, sure, I’m willing to support legislation to do that.”
Since the SCOTUS ruling, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration has aimed to restrain the impact of the decision to strictly criminal jurisdiction. The legal debate surrounding whether the McGirt ruling expands into civil matters — such as taxation — is ongoing.
‘A safer place to live’
If elected to office, Gouge said his checklist of goals will be “vast and long,” but his top desire is to make the Muscogee Nation safer following the affirmation of the reservation.
“My goal and desire is to ensure we have a better living condition, a safer place to live with the reservation status,” Gouge said. “That means improving our Lighthorse forces, which is hiring more people, getting them trained, getting the Violence Against Women Act supported and understood, and have people for that, if not just an office of its own, to ensure we are keeping up with all that stuff.”
Gouge said the Muscogee Nation needs a database to record cases and crime data.
“Also with the cases coming in of various types of victims, I’m sure we need a database to ensure we’re covering all that, and not losing anybody in the cracks here,” Gouge said. “Because there is always that potential that we forget somebody. It only takes one other person to get lost and they’re victimized again.”