Executive Branch

Deputy Principal Chief

The Deputy Principal Chief aids and advises the Principal Chief in the administration of the Cherokee Nation government.


Before being elected in 2011 and reelected as Deputy Principal Chief in 2015, S. Joe Crittenden served two terms on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council.  Service to the Cherokee people is something he knows well, as he has worked and served in some capacity under every Cherokee Principal Chief since W.W. Keeler.

Over the past eight years, he has been an advocate for some of the most successful initiatives in the Cherokee government, including the improvement of health care access for Cherokees, the Cherokee Nation car tag expansion, the construction of new state-of-the-art health care centers, and the restoration of the Cherokee Nation’s new home initiative.

Deputy Chief Crittenden served in the U.S. Navy from April 1964 until August 1967 during the Vietnam War. He is a strong supporter of military veterans and the issues most important to our veterans, Cherokee and non-Cherokee alike.

One of the Deputy Chief’s deepest passions is ensuring Cherokee military veterans are recognized for their service and have all their essential needs met. He helped ensure the new $2 million state-of-the-art Cherokee Nation Veteran’s Center was completed and opened so that military men and women who served the United States always have a place of honor at the tribal headquarters.

He has also overseen three Cherokee Warrior Flights, which take World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the war memorials. This has grown into a popular event and trips for Cherokee veterans have been staged annually since 2014.

Additionally, Deputy Chief Crittenden signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to make obtaining quality health care a more seamless process for Cherokee veterans who wish to use Cherokee Nation health centers for routine care they normally would have used a VA hospital for. He signed the partnership with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure Cherokee Nation was one of 26 tribes nationwide to be part of a new housing program for homeless American Indian military veterans.

The Disabled American Veterans of Oklahoma honored Deputy Chief Crittenden with the 2015 Distinguished Service Award, and he has served as the Parade Marshal of the Tulsa Veterans celebration.

Crittenden is a graduate of Stilwell High School and holds a bachelor's in business administration and accounting from Northeastern State University. He is a member of the Hall of Fame of both institutions. He worked for the U.S. Postal Service, serving as Post Master of Stilwell and Marble City. He retired in 2004 following more than 30 years of public service.

He is a sixth generation resident of the Cherokee Nation whose family has been here since the Trail of Tears. Today, he resides in the Peavine community in Adair County with his wife of 44 years, Lynda Poppino Crittenden, who is a retired educator. They have two daughters and three grandchildren.  Deputy Chief Crittenden has served on Peavine and Marble City School Boards.  He is a board member of the Mid-County Rural Fire Department and a member of the Baron Baptist Church.