When American citizens go to the polls on November 6 to elect a president of the United States for the next four years, Seneca Nation citizens will vote to elect a president for the next two years, and one man has already announced his candidacy.
Seneca Nation Council Chair Richard E. Nephew announced July 12 that he will run for Seneca Nation president. He was endorsed by current President Robert Odawi Porter, who announced his own candidacy for the Nation’s treasurer.
With two separate territories, the Seneca Nation has a unique system: The presidency rotates every two years between the Cattaraugus and Allegany territory, which means a president can hold office for only two years. A president can run for as many two-year terms as he wants, but not consecutively.
Council members can serve consecutive terms, however, and Nephew has been elected to four consecutive four-year terms, He is currently serving his 14th year on the council – hard years, he said in a media release. “For 14 years I have served the Seneca people with foremost focus on protecting our treaty rights, protecting our sovereignty and have worked to defend our lands and economic interests,” Nephew said. “To be sure, it has been nothing but an uphill battle with outside entities—from the state, the feds, and big tobacco. We must continue to move the Seneca Nation forward on a positive course. I am wholly dedicated to ensuring the economic strength of the Seneca Nation, to further diversifying our businesses and to protecting trade and commerce.”
Porter, who will step down from his two-year term in November, praised Nephew. “Richard Nephew is just the kind of leader the Seneca Nation needs. He is tempered, not temperamental. Richard is characteristically thoughtful and rational, not irrational and reactionary. I am happy to lend my support to Richard Nephew’s candidacy for president as he is the best candidate,” Porter said.
Nephew was first elected to the council in 1998 and has served as council chair for the past six years. He was elected Chief Marshal in 1994 and served in law enforcement for four years prior to being elected. Throughout his years on Council, Nephew has served on the Foreign Relations Committee, which he chaired, the Justice Committee, the Judicial Conference, the Culture, Education and Recreation Committee, Budget and Finance, and was also Chair of the Law Enforcement Committee.
According to a biographical sketch issued by the Nation, Nephew served the Nation “during some of the most turbulent times of conflict—during the 1990s – and in more recent years, during the time of greatest development, growth and progress at the Nation.” He is a member of the Seneca Party and has held the position of Seneca Party Chair.
Nephew is a renowned artist whose work with mixed media, carving, and traditional art forms as well as organic material including deer, elk, moose antler, marble, alabaster, and steatite has been shown in more than 50 shows and exhibits across the country.
Porter, who was the Nation’s counsel general before his election to the presidency in 2010, said he is committed to continuing to serve the Nation at the executive level. “Service to the Nation is important work and I’m dedicated to continue the work at the executive level to make sure that the strides that we have made at the Nation continue with lasting effect for the betterment of our people,” Porter said. “There is always more work to be done and no shortage of challenges before us.” The two men have worked harmoniously over the years, Porter said. “We both share a strong commitment to defending Seneca interests and together, we can keep the momentum going.”