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Two candidates will face off for Chairman of the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma

Elections for two offices will be held this Saturday at the Iowa Tribal Grounds in Perkins, Oklahoma. The tribe has almost 1,000 citizens, mostly living in Central Oklahoma.

A total of four candidates will face off for two offices: Chairman and Treasurer.

Last month, the tribal nation announced a partnership with Caesars Entertainment to open a new resort-style casino. It will be built off of the I-44 turnpike between Tulsa and Oklahoma City and will be Harrah's-branded. It will feature various dining options and a hotel.

Caesars has partnered with other tribal nations before, and the new casino means more jobs for Oklahomans and tribal citizens. The tribe says more details about the business will be announced soon and that this is key for their economic development.

KOSU spoke with the two candidates running for Chairman. The conversations are lightly edited for clarity.

Alexandria Harjo

Alexandria Harjo is Pawnee, Muscogee and Iowa. She currently works at Cimarron Casino Enterprises.

On why she's running for chairman

“One of the issues that I see a lot within the tribe is lack of communication and the presence of our elected leaders. I want to make an impact on reestablishing and mending the relationship between elected leaders and the tribal people,” she said. “Everybody, whether it's our tribe or other tribes, have talked about improving communication and transparency. I would like to see quarterly General Council meetings to improve that communication.

“The other issue that I'm really focused on is cultural preservation. There's more issues within the tribe than just money. I see that our people need to refocus and prioritize our tribal ways and everything that we do-you know, who are we and where do we come from.”

Jacob Keyes

Owner of Skydance Brewery in Oklahoma City, the only Native owned brewery in Oklahoma. He started the business in honor of his father. Keyes has ties to the Osage Nation as well as the Otoe-Missouria tribe. He currently holds the vice-chairman position for the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma and worked in gaming for several years. He was named one of the top 50 Native entrepreneurs.

Why he's running for chairman

“I knew that my experience in business and leadership would be helpful as we go to build a new casino that we're working on,” Keyes said. “During my time that I've been in there, I've just really seen the importance of having somebody with those experiences, with that background that can really stay in there and be a part of the casino project. There's also some development that needs to happen with the tribe…just seeing that need I just felt compelled or kind of called to do it. My grandpa, Lawrence Murray was our chairman for over 30 years, and so I've always felt one day I would do it, and I think it's just kind of like one day recently I said this just this is the time.”

Keyes said the resort will boost economic development in the smaller towns in the area where the casino will be located.

If he is elected, he wants to improve job opportunities for tribal citizens and make sure they can take advantage of employment that will come with the construction of the new casino, in addition to working for the casino once it is built.

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Allison Herrera covered Indigenous Affairs for KOSU from April 2020 to November 2023.
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