May 4, 2018
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin this week vetoed House Bill 2661, a bill calling for the recognition of a statewide Oklahoma Native American Day on the second Monday in October. Representative Chuck Hoskin and Senator John Sparks, both citizens of the Cherokee Nation, authored the bill, which passed the House with a 71-10 vote and the Senate with a 35-5 vote.
“This is a slap in the face to the 38 federally recognized tribal governments in Oklahoma,” Hoskin said. “As Indian people, we have an undeniable impact here in Oklahoma. Tribes make significant contributions, both financially and culturally, to our home state.”
HB 2661 did not call for the repeal of Columbus Day; rather, it added the celebration of Oklahoma Native Americans on the same day. Oklahoma currently has a Native American Day in November during national Native American Heritage Month. HB 2661 would have moved that day to October.
Hoskin said moving the day to October is important from an educational perspective to recognize the inaccurate portrayal of history that Columbus and Europeans were the first to “discover” the Americas. This fallacy has been and continues to be taught in Oklahoma schools.
“By acknowledging that Native Americans have lived here for thousands of years before the arrival of the Europeans, we recognize the true history of our country and state. This is a missed opportunity to honor tribal people and tribal governments of Oklahoma,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Even more troubling is that the bill received overwhelming support from legislators on both sides of the aisle and the veto was not for constitutional concerns. The Cherokee Nation endorsed this effort, along with many other tribes and community leaders. It would have been a very simple and popular way to honor the heritage, culture and values of Indian people.”
Hoskin said cities across Oklahoma, like Tulsa, Norman, Tahlequah and Anadarko, are doing the right thing by creating municipal recognition of Native people, a citizenry that makes up nearly 11 percent of Oklahoma’s population, on the second Monday in October.
The Cherokee Nation incorporated it as an official holiday of the tribe through a resolution this year.
“As a state, Governor Fallin really let us down on this issue. Other states with high populations of Native people, including Alaska and South Dakota, are embracing Native American Day,” Hoskin said. “We often say Oklahoma is the heart of Indian Country in America, and I believe we should remain a national leader in honoring the culture, heritage and history of Indian people. With this veto, Governor Fallin has failed the sovereign governments of our tribal nations in Oklahoma.”
Hoskin and Sparks are both term-limited legislators, so an opportunity to bring the issue back will have to be done with new authors.
“Oklahoma voters need to get behind this issue and let legislators and the next governor know we deserve an Oklahoma Native American Day,” Hoskin said.