Nofire’s McGirt statements called ‘clearly treasonous’
BY CHAD HUNTER Reporter
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Candessa Tehee on May 26 admonished fellow councilor Wes Nofire for making a statement she described as “clearly treasonous, clearly traitorous” to the tribe.
The remark, Tehee said during the council’s monthly Rules Committee meeting, was related to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark, 2020 McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling that acknowledged much of eastern Oklahoma remains tribal territory.
“It has recently come to my attention that a member of this body has said that McGirt is the greatest threat to Oklahoma, which I completely disagree with,” Tehee said. “I feel like it’s completely unfounded and totally, totally unsupported. I would also say that it borders on being treasonous and traitorous to Cherokee Nation.”
Tehee directed a related question to CN Attorney General Sara Hill.
“Do statements from elected officials that are clearly treasonous, clearly traitorous, clearly wrong-headed, clearly in a dereliction of his duty as an elected official, does that make your work more difficult?” she asked Hill, who was offering up her monthly committee report.
In response, Hill said, “Yes, it does make the job more difficult.”
“There is a very specific group of people in Oklahoma who like to talk about McGirt as if somehow it was destructive to Oklahoma, as if it ripped Oklahoma apart,” Hill said. “Those kinds of statements get made all of the time. If you sit down and read the McGirt decision, it’s not at all about destruction. It’s all about restoration. It is about restoring the correct legal balance between the tribes who had enforceable treaty promises made to them.”
While Tehee never explicitly named the alleged leader in question or when and where he allegedly made the statement, fellow Councilor Wes Nofire responded.
“If we’re going to start getting on verbal attacks on sitting council members by making so-called treasonous threats … then we need to look at making sure that we’re not overstepping the boundaries here,” Nofire said. “If someone has a problem with another councilor’s statement, they can address them personally. Bringing it out on the council floor, it’s just not the place to be. And also to take someone’s word and misinterpret them as something else is not the place either. So I just want to clarify those things.”
Elected to the Tribal Council in 2019, Nofire is currently running for eastern Oklahoma’s Congressional District 2 as a GOP candidate. The crowded field of hopefuls includes 14 Republicans, one Democrat and one Independent.
In an interview with KWON Bartlesville Radio on May 23, Nofire said he was the only conservative voice on the Tribal Council, and noted that the McGirt decision “is something that I’ve been keeping my eye on.”
“Yeah, it is a big concern,” he said. “It is a big threat to the way that the state has been conducting business for over 140 years. Right now, it’s definitely going to have to take someone who can sit tribal leaders and state leaders down at the table and start making real discussions about how to handle the safety right now – is the big concern – of citizens whether you’re a tribally enrolled member or an Oklahoma state citizen. At the end of the day we’re all Americans. So it’s going to take congressional action to start working these things out.”
Nofire has made similar statements at other times during his congressional campaign, as shown in videos provided to the Cherokee Phoenix.
One video, dated May 12, shows Nofire speaking in front of an audience with a “KWON” banner in the background in which Nofire calls himself the “only conservative voice” on the council, which “gives me the ability to handle what I think is the biggest threat to Oklahomans today, and that’s the McGirt decision.”
Another video, dated May 16, shows Nofire speaking before an audience in Bartlesville, in which he says McGirt is “what I consider to be the biggest threat to Oklahomans.”
Nofire’s comments critical of McGirt come on the heels of fellow GOP second district candidate John Bennett calling for the “disestablishment of those reservations” and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alex Gray declaring that “Congress needs to go back and de-establish the reservations.”
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. appeared to push back against these comments in his remarks at the May 16 regular Tribal Council meeting, though he mentioned no specific candidates by name.
Hoskin told the Council, “We actually have candidates for federal office, perhaps state office, parroting the governor [Kevin Stitt], saying that McGirt is the greatest threat to Oklahomans.”
“Anyone who says McGirt is the greatest threat to Oklahoma is on the other side of sovereignty from me,” he added.
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