January 23, 2017

Kiowa Tribe attempts steps toward conducting formally recognized election in June

Of the three people currently serving on the five-member Kiowa Election Board, the KBC only recognizes one.

CARNEGIE, Okla. – Kiowa voters may be heading back to the polls this summer for the tribe’s first formally recognized election in two years.

At Saturday’s Kiowa Indian Council meeting, Kiowa Business Committee acting chairwoman Amber Toppah announced that efforts are underway to fill vacant seats on the tribe’s election board and hearing board in order to have an election in June.

“It might not be the first weekend in June due to the background checks, but there will be an election in June,” Toppah said. “We’ve reached out to four individuals…about possibly serving on the election board.”

Since its June 2011 recall vote, the tribe’s election board has also held elections in July 2011 and December 2012, but neither is recognized by the Kiowa Business Committee or the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ regional office in Anadarko, Okla., due to procedural questions. Although the recall election is recognized as legal, with only two election commissioners signing off, the results were never certified. The election board’s office at the tribal complex has been locked June 2011.

Of the three people currently serving on the five-member Kiowa Election Board, the Kiowa Business Committee only recognizes one. The terms of the other two members expired and two seats are vacant due to death. As per the Kiowa Constitution, a quorum of three is required to conduct business, including holding elections and certifying results.

“I bring this up because there’s been talk that the KBC has recognized some of the candidates on the ballot, or that we’ve cut deals” Kiowa Business Council member Steve Smith said. “We do not recognize it as a valid election and do not recognize any of those names as duly-elected officials. I have told them personally.”

Open to all enrolled Kiowa citizens older than 18 years old, several candidates from the unrecognized December election attended Saturday’s meeting to share their concerns, including Robert Hatfield. Hatfield was sworn in as a business committee member by election board chairman Dwayne Davis in December, despite not having quorum on the certification results.

“I have nothing in this for me except I am a concerned Kiowa citizen,” Hatfield said. “Why don’t you listen to the people? Why won’t you leave? Why won’t you recognize you were recalled?”

Near the meeting’s end, one man had to be partially restrained by Kiowa tribal security as he blasted Toppah and other members of the Kiowa Business Committee.

“If we say we want you out, you have to get out,” Kiowa citizen Steve Hopkins said. “The BIA can’t save you (KBC members). This is our day and we have the power.

“We just want a legal election.”