Muscogee Nation News Column for April 1, 2016

I don’t believe we have ever seen such a proliferation of presidential debates, nor such an outrageous slate of candidates representing one party in particular. One presidential candidate, whose name I won’t repeat because to repeat it gives him power, leaves a hate wake behind him with nearly every speech he makes. All this makes me wonder about the qualifications for being a leader. What makes a leader has always been pretty much universal, but given the current state of U.S. political affairs, it appears that being a bully, hateful, and obnoxious have replaced the standard leadership characteristics that include the ability to listen, fairness, and wisdom.

There are few legal qualifications for running for President of the United States. You must be a natural born citizen, must be thirty-five years of age, and a U.S. resident for at least fourteen years. The unspoken qualification for running is the ability to garner enough financial and political support.

When you consider the responsibilities of the presidential role, which is essentially running all internal and external affairs for a world power, then the lack of qualifications required is nothing less than astounding.

What makes for an honorable and wise leader includes these character traits:

Humility/Eyasketv: we help each other, no one is above anyone else;
Integrity/Fvtcetv, we take responsibility;
Community/Emetvl’hvmke, community gain is above personal benefit; Responsibility/Emenhonrvke Tayat/to be loyal and reliable in all things;
Wisdom/Hoporrenkv, to listen and pay attention to the wise ones, to continue to keep your ears open more than your mouth;
And, Compassion/Vnoketkv, a great tenderness for living beings and the living being-ness within all life.

These traits hold true for our own Muscogee Creek Nation, principal chief candidates. The qualifications are also fairly minimum. Each candidate must be at least one-quarter blood enrolled citizen, thirty years of age, reside within the Creek Nation boundaries, be a registered voter for at least six months, and the candidate must carry no felony convictions. (Up until 1973 the U.S. President appointed our principal chiefs. You can imagine how that skewed qualifications.)  

Candidates running for office in our nation should be knowledgable in tribal history, government, (including the governments that a chief and contemporary tribal government must deal with, such as the workings of area municipalities, the state of Oklahoma, and federal government), and be at least familiar with our traditional cultural knowledge and arts.

Why not test each candidate for this knowledge? We may even want to consider a change in how we conduct our elections for principal chief or even for national council members.  In the traditional way, those who know things watch for qualities of leadership in those coming up. Leaders often reveal themselves early in childhood. Others emerge later from the school of hard knocks. Leaders are chosen. They do not assert themselves into these positions. And why not turn to a more traditional manner of assigning leadership? Why not allow the community, those who know, to put forth candidates based on their leadership traits, their commitment to service to the people, their knowledge and abilities?

I don’t know as much as many others about these things, but I do know this: talking politics or religion can sure get you into trouble—

Have a good one.