Three seats in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Council are up for grabs in the tribe's 2023 election. (Angela Anne Jones)

Alongside the races for principal chief and second chief, eight candidates are seeking three seats on the Muscogee (Creek) National Council in the primary election Saturday, Sept. 16.

Incumbents Joseph Hicks and William Lowe each have two challengers vying for their respective seats on the Muscogee (Creek) National Council — including former National Council representatives. Meanwhile, Darrell Proctor has one challenger attempting to oust him from office.

Despite five other seats being up for election this term, no challengers filed to run for the Muskogee District Seat A, the Okfuskee District Seat A, the Tukvpvtce District Seat A, Tulsa District Seat A or the Wagoner District Seat A.

Outlining the three contested races, this cheat sheet is derived from publicly available sources of information, including candidate forums that have been held across the Muscogee Nation reservation leading up to the Sept. 16 election. Additionally, information was drawn from the in-depth interview series conducted by the tribe’s independent journalism publication, Mvskoke Media. Those videos are linked where available, although some candidates chose not to participate. Candidates appear in alphabetical order by seat.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. Early voting begins today and ends Thursday, Sept. 14. Representatives serve four-year terms on the Muscogee National Council, and all eligible voters are able to vote in each council district race. If no candidate in the Creek District or Okmulgee District receives a simple majority of the votes Saturday, the top two vote earners will move onto a runoff election later this year.

National Council: Creek District, Seat A

Dode Barnett

Dode Barnett

Age: 52

Profession/background: Barnett formerly served on the Muscogee (Creek) National Council from 2012 to 2017. She sought reelection in 2019, but did not advance through the primary election after receiving 1,408 votes (29 percent) to Joseph Hicks’ 1,760 votes (36.25 percent). In her interview with Mvskoke Media, Barnett said she works for a tech company.

In 2017, Barnett alleged that Lucian Tiger, then-speaker of the National Council, sexually harassed her outside the tribal council’s offices. In an interview with regarding the incident, Barnett said she felt ostracized by her peers within the Muscogee (Creek) National Council.

Platform: In a recent candidate interview with Mvskoke Media, Barnett emphasized her prior service on the National Council.

“One of the things I can provide is I can hit the ground running. I’ve been there, I’ve done the work. My time on council — the last two years I was there — I sponsored more legislation than any other legislator,” Barnett said.

Barnett also noted that representatives on the National Council need to be held to a “higher standard,” and she stated that she wants to impose a more strict code of conduct for representatives. She said those on council who are convicted of DUI’s should be ineligible to continue serving.

Mvskoke Media interview: Click to watch

Online: Facebook

Joseph Hicks (incumbent)

Joseph Hicks

Age: 43

Profession/background: Hicks was first elected to the Muscogee (Creek) National Council in December 2019, defeating Barnett in the primary election and Dean Hughes in the general. He currently serves on the Land, Natural Resources and Cultural Preservation Committee. At a candidate forum in Holdenville, he said he served in the military from 2001 to 2006. He said he was deployed to Iraq in 2003, where he received a purple heart after being injured by an IED.

Hicks pleaded no contest to two separate misdemeanor DUI offenses in September 2022 and July 2023. Hicks was on probation for the first offense at the time he pleaded no contest to the second. According to MCN code, any person convicted of a second DUI offense “shall be deemed guilty of a felony.”

“I’d like to express my deepest apologies to my family, who it effected the most, also to any others that were effected by my actions,” Hicks said before the National Council on Aug. 26. “I understand that this behavior did not only affect my image (…) along with how persons outside of our tribe look at our citizens, and for that I am truly sorry.”

Platform: At a candidate forum in Holdenville, Hicks said he tries to “keep politics out of it.”

“Politics ain’t no good,” Hicks said. “I know this is a political position, but I try to keep it out of it. I just try to keep it real.”

Asked what he believes to be the biggest threat facing the tribe, Hicks said the loss of the Muscogee language and, secondly, Gov. Kevin Stitt.

“He fights all the tribes tooth-and-nail, every day. He wants to claim he’s native whenever it’s beneficial to him, but whenever it’s not, he’s against us,” Hicks said.

Mvskoke Media interview: N/A

Online: Facebook

Leney McNac

Leney McNac

Age: 42

Profession/background: Leney Joe McNac, Jr. said he is running for office as a “new face in the council.” He has been a part of the Muscogee Nation’s Johnson-O’Malley program at Depew Public Schools for the past four years. The JOM program allows tribal nations to enter into contracts with local school districts to provide Indian education for tribal citizens.

Platform: “I just feel like it’s time for me to step up and come out and try to support the tribe on a bigger level now,” McNac said in a recent interview with Mvskoke Media.

But McNac said he is unsure what issues the nation is facing.

“I don’t know a lot of the legislative issues,” McNac said. “That’s why I want to come in and go to the community centers to actually hear what the meetings and the people have got to say. I want to be a bigger voice for those people, and I don’t want to be caught so much within the political part of it — that’s already going on. I want to see what the problems are at the local levels around all the communities, that way we can address those issues and bring them up as they come. (…) I’m going to learn as I go and just try to figure out what everybody needs.”

McNac did call his platform as one that promotes “unity,” saying that he wants to see tribal citizens in various communities to spend more time together.

Mvskoke Media interview: Click to watch

Online: Facebook

McIntosh District, Seat A

Judith Pickering

Judith Pickering

Age: 66

Profession/background: Judith Pickering is a retiree, and she said in a recent Mvskoke Media interview that she served 23 years with the tribal nation, most of which was in the tribal health division in the Eufaula clinic.

Platform: Pickering said she decided to run because she has always liked being involved with her community and because the sees a lot of need.

“I want to be able to help wherever I can, not just a certain group but all tribal citizens,” Pickering said. “I have that compassion to be able to lend an ear, be a voice for our tribal people.”

Pickering said her main concern is protecting the Muscogee Nation’s sovereignty now that its reservation has been affirmed.

“We feel like that adds more power to our nation to address a lot of issues that involves our reservation status, and I feel like that we need to be advancing and protecting that sovereignty,” Pickering said. “We’ve always had it, but here within the past three years, it’s been nationally known that we are on a reservation.”

Pickering also said part of her platform includes advocating for all citizens, not just those within the boundaries of the Muscogee Nation Reservation.

“If it’s possible that we would have to look at all the avenues and the programs that maybe they would want to have in their area, that’s something I would really take seriously,” Pickering said, referring to citizens living in states such as California and Texas or Muscogee citizens living in Oklahoma but outside of the reservation.

Mvskoke Media interview: Click to watch

Online: Pickering does not appear to maintain an online presence.

Darrell Proctor (Incumbent)

Darrell Proctor

Age: 57

Profession/background: Proctor has served as representative of Seat A in the McIntosh District for the last 16 years. He serves as the chairman of the Land, Natural Resources and Cultural Preservation Committee. He also serves as a deacon and a Sunday school director.

Platform: In a candidate forum held at the Tulsa Creek Indian Community, Proctor said his platform has not changed over the 16 years he has served on the National Council.

“I’ll continue to serve the underserved and stand up for the young, and that hasn’t changed” Proctor said. “I won’t compromise my beliefs or anything like that.”

Mvskoke Media interview: N/A

Online: Proctor does not appear to maintain an online presence.

Okmulgee District, Seat A

James Jennings

James Jennings

Age: 74

Profession/background: Jennings first served in the National Council from 2005 to 2011 and was also elected in 2013 before being ousted from Okmulgee District Seat B in 2021. He was on the Health, Education and Welfare Committee throughout his time on the council.

Platform: “I don’t necessarily have a platform,” Jennings said in a Mvskoke Media interview. “It’s kind of a continuation of what I’ve done on the council before.”

Jennings said he wants to keep supporting education and health initiatives. He also said he is “a strong believer in serving the people with integrity.”

In response to questions from viewers watching the livestream, Jennings said he supports testing water quality in the Arkansas River, increasing the Muscogee Nation disaster assistance fund to adjust for inflation and making the Creek Council Oak Park a U.S. and Muscogee national monument.

Jennings also said that, if elected, he will support the Muscogee Nation Constitution, which stipulates that citizenship is “by blood.” The statement came in response to a question about a Muscogee Nation lawsuit concerning the citizenship of Freedmen, the descendants of Muscogee slaves.

Mvskoke Media interview: Click to watch

Online: Jennings does not appear to maintain an online presence.

William Lowe (Incumbent)

Profession/background: Lowe serves as the speaker of the Muscogee (Creek) National Council. He was first elected to represent the Okmulgee District Seat A in December 2019. During a Holdenville candidate forum, he said he served nine years in the U.S. Marine Corps before earning a master’s degree in business administration from Grand Canyon University.

Lowe is also a board member on The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development.

Platform: Asked at a candidate forum about potential economic development efforts for the Holdenville area, Lowe noted that the Muscogee Nation has a new commerce department.

“As an incumbent council representative, I would be very excited to see what kind of ideas that that actual commerce group has for this particular area,” Lowe said.

Lowe said he would promote “cultural tourism,” something he said he helped Saint Regis Mohawk, a New York tribe, kickstart.

“Right now, they have a multimillion dollar tourism department, and to me, that’s amazing,” Lowe said. “And I can see that down here in Holdenville, too, because again, we’re all very proud of where we come from. We have elders who want to tell their stories.”

Lowe also said he wants the tribe to purchase more homes to be used for elder housing.

Mvskoke Media interview: N/A

Online: Facebook

Robyn Whitecloud

Robyn Whitehead

Age: 54

Profession/background: In an interview with Mvskoke Media, Whitecloud said she has worked 19 years for the Muscogee Nation and has a background in accounting. She currently works as a finance officer for the Muscogee (Creek) National Council.

Platform: Whitecloud said she wants to help those who “fall in between the gaps.” More specifically, she identified an issue related to finding housing for elders who are raising grandchildren. Elders are only eligible for that program if they are the only tenant in the house, Whitecloud said.

Whitecloud said she believes the Muscogee Nation needs to diversify its funding sources, adding that the Nation “can’t always depend on gaming.” She also wants to help provide services to citizens who live outside of the reservation, she said.

Mvskoke Media interview: Click to watch

Online: Facebook