Dusk Monetathchi
Dusk Monetathchi is set to be sworn into his first term on the Chickasaw Nation Tribal Legislature on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, after defeating incumbent Steven Woods in the tribe's August 2023 runoff. (Facebook)

The only race that drew a challenger for the Chickasaw Nation’s 2023 electoral cycle culminated Tuesday with political newcomer Dusk Monetathchi ousting 20-year incumbent Steven Woods from the Tishomingo District’s third seat on the Tribal Legislature.

Monetathchi received 821 votes (55.18 percent) to Woods’ 667 votes (44.82 percent) in Tuesday’s runoff, which was conducted exclusively with absentee ballots mailed to the U.S. post office in Ada. Woods received fewer votes than he did in the July 25 general election, while Monetathchi received more.

“Thank you to all my family and friends who helped and supported me through this campaign. I couldn’t have done it without you all. We will get a celebration party together soon and let you all know when and where,” Monetathchi wrote in an Aug. 29 Facebook post. “I promise to work hard for you and make you proud. Chi Pisa lacho!!”

The Tishomingo District’s third seat was the only race up for election in 2023 that drew a challenger. In recent decades, challengers defeating incumbents has been fairly rare in Chickasaw Nation elections. In 2015, Linda English Weeks defeated incumbent Barbara Anne Smith for a seat on the Chickasaw Nation Supreme Court. In 1993, a pair of incumbents lost reelection bids for the Tribal Council.

Woods, who served in the Chickasaw Legislature for two decades prior to his defeat Tuesday, nearly won reelection outright in the July 25 general election, getting 729 votes (49.6 percent) to 653 (44.4 percent) for Monetathchi. The three-candidate race also included Shane Langford, who received 89 votes (6 percent). Had Woods received only seven of the votes divided between Monetathchi and Langford, he would have avoided a runoff with a simple-majority vote.

Woods, who has not posted about the election results on his campaign Facebook page, did not respond to interview requests prior to Tuesday’s election.

In an interview earlier this month, Monetathchi discussed his career in law enforcement, which began as a reserve deputy in Johnston County before joining the Chickasaw Nation Lighthorse Police Department in 2004, when the department was reestablished.

Monetathchi said part of his decision to run for the Tishomingo seat stemmed from the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma and what the implications of the ruling meant for the Chickasaw Nation’s criminal justice system as it prosecutes more crimes on its reservation.

“I’ve had a background in law enforcement, and given the events that have unfolded with the McGirt decision and tribal laws, I just think I have some good ideas when it comes to prosecuting crimes and how that should be done after that decision,” he said.

Among other priorities, Monetathchi said he wants protect tribal sovereignty and improve the quality of resources and programs for elders.

“My uncle was a tribal legislator many years ago, and when we lost our sovereignty, we were unable to govern our people. That’s invaluable, and it needs to be fought for,” Monetathchi said. “I think we’ve done a great job progressing. It isn’t perfect, but we have progressed.”

Monetathchi is set to take the oath of office Monday, Oct. 2.

Joseph Tomlinson is a staff reporter who leads NonDoc's Edmond Civic Reporting Project. A Report for America corps member, his coverage pertains to civics, politics and actions of the Edmond City Council, the Edmond Public Schools Board and other government bodies that affect area residents. Tomlinson graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a journalism degree in 2021. After covering Congress as a Gaylord News fellow, he completed an internship with NonDoc Media and became a staff reporter in 2022. Send tips and story ideas to
William W. Savage III (Tres) has served as the editor in chief of NonDoc since the publication launched in September 2015. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and covered two sessions of the Oklahoma Legislature for before working in health care for six years. He is a nationally certified Mental Health First Aid instructor.