Six candidates running for three seats on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council are competing in a runoff election set for Saturday, July 8. None of the races features an incumbent, and five of the six candidates have never run for office before.
The Tribal Council is a 17-member legislative body whose sole responsibility is to establish laws and conduct business to “further the interests of the Cherokee Nation and its citizens.” All Tribal Council members are elected to four-year terms.
Cherokee citizens can vote early or drop off absentee ballots at the Election Commission office in Tahlequah from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. between Tuesday, July 4, and Thursday, July 6. On Election Day, precinct polling locations are scheduled to be open between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
The Cherokee Nation recently issued a press release announcing that absentee ballots mailed out for the upcoming runoff election have been delayed due to storm-related power outages in Tulsa.
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission urged voters to fill out and mail back — or hand-deliver — their absentee ballots as soon as possible. Those who requested an absentee ballot but did not receive one can vote early or on Election Day by casting a “challenge ballot.”
During the June 3 general election, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner were reelected for a second term. Tribal Councilors Daryl Legg of District 6, Dora Patzkowski of District 12, Joe Deere of District 13 and Julia Coates, at-large, were also reelected for an additional term.
Kevin Easley Jr. was elected as District 14’s new representative on the Tribal Council. Current District 14 Tribal Councilor Keith Austin was ineligible to run again owing to term limits. The Cherokee Constitution prohibits more than two consecutive terms and requires consecutively elected officials to take a term off before running for office again.
More than 17,000 Cherokee citizens voted in the general election, a marked increase from the 13,870 voters who cast ballots in 2019. Roughly 78,400 people are registered to vote in the Cherokee Nation.
The following summary of the Cherokee Nation runoff races is drawn primarily from news reports, government documents and campaign websites. Only two of the six candidates — Dale Lee Glory (District 1) and Codey Poindexter (District 8) — responded to requests for interview for this article.
Tribal Council District 1
Profession: Before running for Tribal Council, Blackfox-Qualls was employed as a registered nurse at the W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah.
Experience: Blackfox-Qualls currently serves as vice-president of the Hulbert Public Schools Board of Education. She ran unopposed in 2019. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
Platform: In a Cherokee Phoenix Q&A, Blackfox-Qualls wrote that she wants to “amplify the voices of the Cherokee citizens” if elected as the next tribal councilor representing District 1.
“I have chosen to live a service-oriented profession and serving on the Tribal Council offers the platform to address more diverse needs including housing, language and culture, education, and health care,” she wrote. “My number one goal is to be responsive and provide resources and solutions in a timely manner. I plan to be available and active on day one.”
Blackfox-Qualls that wrote her campaign is concerned with mitigating the “rising mental health crisis” and addressing safety in schools and health care facilities, calling it “an increasing national issue.”
Dale Lee Glory
Profession: Before running for Tribal Council, Glory served as the director of the Cherokee Nation Land Management and Agriculture Office.
Experience: A 25-year veteran of the Tahlequah Police Department, Glory retired in 2016 as captain of the detective division. He later worked for the Cherokee Nation Fish and Wildlife Association, issuing hunting and fishing licenses. He has never held elected office.
Platform: Glory said in an interview that his three main concerns are providing for elders, improving behavioral health care access and keeping traditions alive. He said he is not afraid of going out and advocating for citizens’ needs.
“I am running for Tribal Council to help the elders. My main concern is they need housing and health care,” Glory said in an interview. “I want to see the Cherokee people get the help that they need.”
Glory said he doesn’t consider himself any better than anyone else.
“One thing I am not is I am not a ‘yes-man,'” he said. “I am my own person. I have my own beliefs, and I will listen to the people who vote me in there.”
In a Cherokee Phoenix Q&A, Glory wrote that he is running for Tribal Council because public service is his “way of life.”
“I spent 25 years serving the people in our community through law enforcement, and I have spent the last seven years serving the citizens of the Cherokee Nation,” he wrote. “If elected, I will continue the hard work while being a strong advocate for the citizens of District 1 to ensure that all goals set for this district are achieved.”
Tribal Council District 3
Lisa Robison Hall
Profession: Hall is a trust accounts administrator at the Bureau of Trust Funds Administration‘s Cherokee Agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Experience: Hall has worked at the Cherokee County District Court Clerk’s office and for the Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare and Realty offices. She has also served as a Johnson O’Malley specialist at Keys Elementary in Park Hill. She has never held an elected position.
Platform: In a Cherokee Phoenix Q&A, Hall wrote that she is running for Tribal Council because she wants to be involved in the community and ensure the “needs of the district” are met.
“I want to invest my time, work experience, and passion for our people to help our community grow,” she wrote. “I will advocate for housing for elders and families, transportation for cancer and diabetic patients living in the rural area, and donated food delivery service for elders who do not have transportation to pick up their monthly groceries.”
Hall wrote that her campaign is prioritizing health care, language and culture, housing and the needs of elders, veterans and youth. Hall also wrote that she wants to bring a new community center to District 3, which runs from the south side of Tahlequah down to Lake Tenkiller.
Profession: Drywater-Barnett is the operations and marketing manager for Meigs Jewelry in Tahlequah, where she has worked for 15 years.
Experience: In 2014, Drywater-Barnett earned an associate degree in health care administration from Northeastern State University. She has never held elected office.
Platform: In a Cherokee Phoenix Q&A, Drywater-Barnett wrote that she is running for Tribal Council because she wants to “be a strong voice” for her district.
“I want to make a difference,” she wrote. “This opportunity is a chance to be part of something much bigger than being elected to council. For me, this is a chance to create change for future generations and to make our tribe better. I was always taught to speak up when necessary. Now, I believe it is necessary.”
Drywater-Barnett wrote her campaign is focusing on elevating road quality, ensuring access to utilities and promoting Cherokee culture.
Tribal Council District 8
Profession: Poindexter is a youth pastor at GracePoint Outreach Center in Baron. He is also an artist and a freelance graphic designer.
Experience: Poindexter holds a fine arts degree in graphic design from Northeastern State University and a master of legal studies degree in Indigenous peoples law from the University of Oklahoma. He has never held an elected position.
Platform: Poindexter said in an interview that his campaign has focused mainly on tribal housing and water quality. He said rural communities especially suffer from a lack of adequate housing and a shortage of safe drinking water.
“I have wanted to run for Tribal Council for a really long time,” Poindexter said in an interview. “It’s mainly because I wanted to be an accurate representation of the people in my community, somebody they can relate to on Tribal Council. I grew up learning the language and being involved in the culture.”
Poindexter said he’s not promising anything during his campaign.
“The only thing I’ll promise is that I’ll do my best.” he said. “I really want to focus on our Cherokee speakers and our elders as a whole and give them the best quality care that we have.”
In a Cherokee Phoenix Q&A, Poindexter wrote that he is running for Tribal Council because he has a “strong desire for helping the community and being an advocate for those in need.”
“Our elders are our treasures within our community and they should be treated with the upmost care,” he wrote. “I would also like to expand services involved with language, culture, and education within our school systems. Investing in our kids’ future and culture preservation should be an important focus within the communities.”
Profession: Decker is a senior sales director at Mary Kay.
Experience: Decker holds a health and physical education degree from Northeastern State University. She has never held elected office.
Platform: In a Cherokee Phoenix Q&A, Decker wrote that she is looking to serve her community by becoming the next tribal councilor representing District 8.
“The Cherokee Nation is experiencing a time of tremendous growth,” she wrote. “I want to help our community take advantage and be a part of the growth. Any opportunity within our community needs to benefit this area at all levels such as employment and education. I want to help our community moving forward. I want to help us take the next step.”
Decker wrote her campaign is focusing on the needs of Cherokee youth and elders.
“The youth need help to enter the workforce in a manner that fits their needs and goals. The nation needs to establish programs that will help them,” she wrote. “The elderly need help as well, and there are programs at the nation that they are not aware of. We need to establish programs that help in all areas of need with a focus on the youth and elders.”