Wes Nofire tapped for Native American liaison role in Oklahoma governor's office
Gov. Kevin Stitt says former Cherokee Nation tribal council member Wes Nofire will be "a bridge" between his office and the state's tribal nations.
Nofire vacated his seat on the tribal council to run for Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation last spring. He has openly criticized the McGirt v. Oklahoma decision, as tribal nation leaders tout it as a win for their sovereignty.
Stitt says he's bringing Nofire to build bridges with his office and tribal communities throughout the state.
“Wes brings a deep familiarity with tribal governments and people across Oklahoma. His work for the Cherokee government makes him an ideal choice as we build bridges between my office and tribal governments,” Stitt said in a statement.
Former state Representative and current Chickasaw Tribal Legislature member Lisa Billy served as the first Secretary of Native American Affairs in the Stitt administration. She left in 2019 after saying Stitt was creating "unnecessary conflict" with the tribes in the state in her resignation letter.
She wasreplaced by Brian Bingman, who serves double-duty as Secretary of State.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. who was just sworn in for a second term last week said the appointment was disappointing.
"We continue to hope for a day in which the depths of knowledge of Indian Country issues on Gov. Stitt’s team deepens. It’s now shallower," Hoskin Jr. wrote.
"Wes Nofire’s brief time in elected office was marked by a hostility toward Cherokee tribal sovereignty, a lack of understanding broadly of the issues facing Indian Country, and his peddling of conspiracy theories about Cherokee Nation, which can only be described as unhinged,” he said ina written statement. “Governor Stitt’s stances toward tribes, the most hostile in state history, will now be informed by someone who aligns closely with the Governor’s own views, sadly. Fortunately, there are a broad array of state leaders with whom we can and will continue to work.”
Muscogee Nation Principal Chief David Hill also panned the appointment, arguing Nofire is unlikely to have a significant impact in the Stitt administration.
"I don't think his staff has been the issue," Hill said in astatement. "The Governor sets the direction for his administration and he has made it clear that his policy is hostility towards tribes and their authority. It's hard to see one staff appointment changing that."
In 2022, Nofire also unsuccessfully ran for a seat in Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District.
This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.