Muscogee Nation chief election
Voters will cast ballots Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, for the positions of principal chief and second chief of the Muscogee Nation. (Angela Anne Jones)

Three challengers are attempting to unseat Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill, who is seeking a second four-year term as leader of the fourth-largest tribe in the U.S. with 99,801 citizens.

primary election is scheduled to be held Saturday, Sept. 16, with absentee voting underway. Early voting is set for today and Thursday. A general election, scheduled for Nov. 4, will feature Saturday’s two top finishers if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary.

Challenging Hill to be principal chief are Timothy Good Voice, Lahoma A. Shultz and Joseph T. Rogers. Good Voice previously ran against Hill in the 2019 principal chief race, garnering 4.9 percent of the vote and finishing fifth out of six candidates who participated in a November primary after the tribe’s Supreme Court nullified the results of a September election following allegations of fraud.

For the second chief position in Saturday’s primary, current National Council Rep. Sandra Golden is challenging incumbent Second Chief Del Beaver. Golden is currently halfway through a four-year Okfuskee District Seat B term. If she wins the second chief race, a special election will have to be held to elect her successor.

Saturday’s election, which also includes three National Council races, will be held at designated precinct polling sites housed at each MCN community center. There are a total of 18 sites. Early voting today and Thursday is set to be held at four community centers: Okmulgee, Okemah, Eufaula and Tulsa.

The total number of registered voters in the Muscogee Nation is 18,148 as of Sept. 1. Only 5,137 voters participated in the November 2019 primary election. For more information about Saturday’s election, call the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Election Board at (918) 732-7631 or visit its website.

Headquartered in Okmulgee, the Muscogee Nation’s reservation status was affirmed in 2020 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which held that the allotted Muscogee Nation Reservation in Oklahoma has not been disestablished. As a result, only the tribe and the federal government have prosecutorial jurisdiction over tribal citizens accused of crimes in much or all of Creek, Hughes, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, McIntosh, Muskogee, Tulsa, and Wagoner counties.

The following electoral cheat sheet provides an overview of the four candidates for principal chief and the two candidates for second chief. Information was gathered from publicly available sources, and candidates are presented in alphabetical order, with recorded candidate interviews conducted by Mvskoke Media linked where available.

Principal chief candidates

Timothy Good Voice

Timothy Good Voice

Age: 61

Profession/background: Good Voice served in the U.S. Army Reserve as a medic and practiced preventive medicine. He has worked for 24 years in tribal government, including roles focused on community development, grants, contract negotiations and construction.

Platform: On his Facebook page, Good Voice said fostering economic growth for the Muscogee Nation will require a multifaceted approach that involves increasing availability of housing for tribal and non-tribal businesses within reasonable driving distances. Examples, he said, are lease-to-own housing programs and assistance to get people into leasing or rental units. In more challenged socioeconomic areas, the nation needs to use its Community Development Financial Institution to encourage entrepreneurship to establish small business enterprises and support the employment of Native American labor, he said.

“By promoting more jobs and increasing availability of housing while enhancing educational opportunities, more of our youth may be inclined to work and live in our communities, thereby exposing them to more of our culture and heritage,” he said.

In an interview with Mvskoke Media, Good Voice said he has heard concerns that a change in leadership within the tribe’s executive branch could bring broad terminations of employees. Good Voice said those who are focused on taking care of Muscogee people should have no reason to worry.

“I want to be able to bring together a divided nation,” Good Voice said in the interview. “We’re so divided that we’re being picked off by the federal government. We’re being picked off by the state of Oklahoma. And I believe it’s time that we come together and stand strong against those forces and take control of our nation, take control of our destiny, and have something to hand off to our youth.”

Mvskoke Media interview: Click to watch

Online: Facebook

David W. Hill (incumbent)

David Hill

Age: 58

Profession/background: Prior to being elected principal chief in 2019, Hill served three consecutive four-year terms as a representative of the Muscogee Nation’s legislative body, the National Council. He worked for 30 years in the aerospace industry.

Platform: Hill said in an interview with Mvskoke Media that his platform when he ran four years ago was “Progress, Prosperity.” He said he is running this year on “Progress, Prosperity, Part Two.”

“We’ve got a lot of stuff moving on (…) I just want to make sure those are completed and just keep moving forward,” Hill said.

Hill was elected the seventh principal chief in the modern era of Muscogee Nation tribal government, finishing first among six candidates in the November 2019 primary and winning 65.8 percent of the vote a month later in the general election. As he seeks reelection this year, tribal leaders’ frustration with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt regarding Native Americans’ gaming compacts and other agreements remains a major issue. In an opinion article that ran Sunday in The Oklahoman, Hill wrote that Stitt’s “behavior is more schoolyard bully than diplomat.”

“The relationship between the state and tribes is meant to be one of collaboration and cooperation between sovereigns, not a winner-take-all scenario,” he wrote. “The presence of sovereign tribes within our state offers a unique opportunity. One need look no further than the billions of dollars tribes have contributed to the economy and directly into the state’s account, which the governor recently praised, for things like highways and schools.”

During his first term in office, Hill said his leadership has brought the tribe global recognition for its proactive response to the COVID-19 pandemic and for the nation’s fierce battle to uphold sovereignty in the wake of the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming the Muscogee Reservation. Hill was named one of TIME Magazine 100 Most Influential People for 2020.

“Since 2020, we have continued to grow as a nation and were able to build four new facilities and purchase a 5,600-acre ranch to help enhance our economic development and promote food sovereignty,” Hill said to Mvskoke Media. “Additionally, we have expanded partnerships in the southeast region which gives us the opportunity to have an increased presence in our original homelands.”

Mvskoke Media interview: Click to watch

Online: Website; Facebook

Joseph T. Rogers

Joseph T. Rogers

Age: 69

Profession/background: Rogers owns a construction and remodeling business in Tulsa.

Platform: Rogers, who notes that most people know him as Tommy, said on his Facebook page that the current Muscogee Nation leadership has not done much to help the tribe’s economic development.

“What is it that the tribe has done in the last three years for economic development or diversity as they like to call it for our tribe? What have they done in the last three years for the survival of our tribal citizens? When I look back over these last few years, I don’t see anything that really has been done to make any changes,” he said. “I see our tribal leaders taking trips with the election board and that is more like them campaigning on our dime for them to stay in office.”

On his page, Rogers said he is concerned about the competency of the Muscogee Nation Election Board and questioned whether votes from other states are being counted in elections.

Mvskoke Media interview: N/A

Online: Facebook

Lahoma A. Schultz

Lahoma A. Schultz

Age: 72

Profession/background: Schultz is a licensed psychologist and a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in the states of Oklahoma and Arkansas. She is a former director of the Oklahoma Area Indian Health Service Clinton Service Unit Behavioral Health Department. Prior to that, she was the director of the Ponca Nation Behavioral Health Department. She also has served as a psychologist for the Veterans Administration, where she counseled American Indian soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Vietnam veterans. She holds multiple degrees, including a Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University, and she has served as chairwoman of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Scholarship Foundation’s selection committee.

Platform: In a press release published by the Eufaula Indian Journal, Schultz describes her vision as bringing the Muscogee Nation to the forefront in economic sustainability and cultural revitalization. She said she wants to provide expanded services to all citizens.

“I have many ideas that I want to pursue that will benefit our tribe and our citizens,” Schultz said. “These ideas are based on input from several Mvskoke citizens. Some of my plans will build upon unfinished projects of our nation. These plans involve collaboration amongst the tourism, language, cultural preservation departments and a committee of our traditional leaders to develop a state-of-the-art museum which will showcase our history, language, culture and art. The completed project will spur economic growth by way of tourism.”

In the release, Schultz praised former Muscogee Nation Chief George Tiger — who was sentenced in 2020 to a year in prison after pleading guilty to soliciting and accepting bribes while doing economic development work for the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town — for his administration’s creation of the tribe’s Scholarship Foundation.

“Education has always been important to our tribe, even before the removal of our ancestors from our original homelands,” Schultz said. “I appreciate the vision of Chief Tiger regarding the development of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Scholarship Foundation during his administration.”

In an interview with Mvskoke Media, Shultz said she would surround herself with people well-versed in Indian federal law and have experience with litigation.

Mvskoke Media interview: Click to watch

Online: Website | Facebook

Second chief candidates

Del Beaver (incumbent)

Del Beaver

Age: 47

Profession/background: Second chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. From 2005 until 2016, Beaver worked in the tribe’s Office of Environmental Services, serving the last four years as director. In 2016, Beaver was elected to the National Council representing Seat A of the Okmulgee District, an office he held until being elected second chief in the November 2019 primary. He also is associate pastor at Native Stone Baptist Church in Sapulpa.

Platform: In an interview with Mvskoke Media, Beaver said he would like to create more opportunities for the tribe’s youth, such as through sports.

“How do we create our own sports leagues, our own sports organizations where we are providing opportunities for our youth and maybe Native youth in general out here?” he asked.

Students participating in sports learn how to budget their time so they can “stay in school, to have good grades,” he said.

“If we invest in our kids now when they’re 14, 15, 16 and 17, how much will we have to invest in them when they’re 30, 35, 40? ” Beaver said. “Hopefully, when they’re at that age, we’re not investing in them but they’re investing back into the nation.”

Beaver said he has 23 years of tribal government experience, working the last 18 years with the Muscogee Nation.

“My whole life basically is focused on Native people,” he said.

Mvskoke Media interview: Click to watch

Online: Facebook

Sandra Golden

Sandra Golden

Age: 73

Profession/background: Golden is the Muscogee National Council representative in the Okfuskee District Seat B post, having won 58.5 percent of the votes cast in 2021 to defeat an incumbent who was seeking his fourth term. Golden previously served on the National Council from the Okfuskee District from 2001 until 2005.

Platform: Golden said on her Facebook page that she wants to be a part of change and that she will work for the tribe’s citizens.

“Frustrated citizens want better and I agree, we must do better,” she said. “We need to listen to common-sense solutions and use these solutions so that we can succeed together. I’m running to give you a voice and real change to the Muscogee Creek Nation.”

She said she has a proven track record of more than 30 years of administration and planning experience.

In an interview with Mvskoke Media, Golden said she would meet often with citizens “to find out what their needs are, to find out what problems they’re having and then try to prioritize them.”

“We can put all of the money into all of those programs, but if we don’t change our policies and procedures to be applicable to the citizens then we’re not really helping them,” she said.

Mvskoke Media interview: Click to watch

Online: Facebook