At-large Cherokees make up big percentage of tribal citizenship

Feb. 1—Of the more than 430,000 citizens of the Cherokee Nation, only about 141,000 live within the 14-county tribal reservation boundaries, leaving a majority of members designated as "at-large."

The tribe has two councilors who represent at-large citizens. Currently in those positions are Johnny Jack Kidwell, whose seat will open in 2025, and Julia Coates, whose seat is open for the 2023 Cherokee General Election.

The election will take place on Saturday, June 3. Other open seats include chief, deputy chief, and Districts 1, 3, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14. Voters may cast their ballots for chief, deputy chief, and candidates for Tribal Council in the districts in which they reside.

At-large citizens may only vote by absentee ballot or early walk-in voting on May 27, 30, 31, and June 1. A drop-off box for these votes will be available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m at the Election Commission Office, 17763 S. Muskogee Ave. in Tahlequah.

To vote, voters must be CN citizens and at least 18 years old on or prior to June 3. The last day to send in a voter registration application is March 31. Voters needing to update their addresses must submit new registration applications. Tribal citizens age 17 can register if they can show they will turn 18 before or on the election date.

There is an exception to this rule for at-large voters. According to a CN Election Commission press release, "New applicants under the age of 25 who reside outside the boundaries may select to register at-large or in a district of your choice; but this selection must be made at the time of your signing of this Voter Registration Form."

Absentee ballot requests will be accepted until April 10 for the general election and June 12 for the run-off election.

No candidates for the at-large seat have yet filed their candidacy or announced their intentions, although the period to do so is quickly approaching

"Filing will not be until Feb. 6-9," said Marcus Fears, CN Election Commission administrator.

The candidacy filing period will begin at 8 a.m. on Feb. 6, ending at 5 p.m. on Feb. 9. Candidates must file their declarations of candidacy in person at the Election Commission Office.

Cherokee Nation taken steps to further engage its at-large citizens in recent years, such as the establishment of the At-Large Cherokee Advisory Committee in 2019.

"By establishing our At-Large Cherokee Advisory Committee, my hope is that we elevate the voices of our citizens living outside the 14 counties and ensure their needs and their perspectives are considered when we craft future initiatives," said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. when the committee was first established. "I couldn't be happier with this committee of professionals and the heart that each of them have for ensuring at-large citizens feel more connected to their Cherokee roots."

Patsy Edgar, Cynthia Ruiz, Bruce West, Wade McAlister, and Kevin Stretch currently serve on this committee.

Many at-large Cherokee live in the state of California where, according to a CN press release from April 2022, over 23,000 of its citizen reside.

There are also official Cherokee Community Organizations across the country serving population pockets of at-large citizens, such as the Cherokee Community of North Texas, Cherokees of Central Florida, Colorado Cherokee Circle, and more.

Those interested in filing can still pick up packets at the Election Commission.