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Native voter push not enough to tip scales of power in Oklahoma's Governor race

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Allison Herrera
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KOSU
Jesse Ortiz drives a Muscogee Nation transit shuttle to get Native voters to the polls on Tuesday in Okmulgee, Okla.

Despite a big push for Native voter turnout, it wasn’t enough to win the Governor’s race. According to the United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, Indigenous people account for about 14 percent of eligible voters in the state.

The United Indian Nations of Oklahoma watched results Tuesday night at an event in Oklahoma City, and while they said they were disappointed about the outcome, they say they’re just getting started.

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Allison Herrera
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KOSU
Nicolette Casula

"This just means that it's game on," said Nicollette Casula, who said they're proud of the work they've done to organize and get more Indigenous people to the polls.

That included operating transit buses on election day and hosting educational events leading up to election day.

"We're coming to the table in future elections," said Louise Gray, who is an Osage citizen.

Many of the state’s tribal nations have had a fraught relationship with Gov. Kevin Stitt surrounding gaming compacts, hunting and fishing compacts and criminal jurisdiction. That led the Five Tribes to endorse Democrat Joy Hofmeister last month.

"Although the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma endorsed Gov. Stitt’s opponent, we remain open to cooperating with the administration for the benefit of all Oklahomans,” said Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton in a statement.

Batton went on to say he hopes Stitt’s second term is marked by greater understanding and cooperation on many levels.

Amy Warne, who is Muscogee and Seminole, is running for Oklahoma City Council in 2023. She attended events during the election cycle, including the Warrior Up the Vote Rally held in October.

It's just a matter of getting that message out to our relatives," said Warne.

Despite the endorsement from the largest tribes in the state, Stitt carried all of Oklahoma’s rural counties, including those where the capitals of the tribal nations are located.

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Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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