Oklahoma Must Repair Communication to End Racism Toward Natives

Jennie Stockle

In 2011 Mary Fallin assumed office as Governor of the Oklahoma and, like it or not, the events that have followed exemplify some of the worst atrocities against Native Americans in any recent memory. One of the first things that got axed by the state legislature [by HB 2172] that Spring was Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. After 43 years of having an OIAC, the OIAC staff had dwindled from a 9 member board with up to 15 advisors to just a two-person staff. Two Native women were tasked to handle the needs of 39 Tribal Nations, nations that predate the state of Oklahoma in governance. It wasn't until September of 2012 that Jacque Secondine Hensley was appointed as Oklahoma's Native American liaison to the Governor's office.

In October 2013, Dusten Brown and the Cherokee Nation has had US Marshalls arrive in military vehicles to the gates of Tahlequah and remove a four-year-old Cherokee girl. General sentiment from Native Americans , Native American adoptees, and others across the country has been one of horrifying disbelief. Many people wanted to believe that the forced removal of American Indian children to be adopted by non-Natives or taken to American Indian residential schools had not returned to the pages of this nation's history, but it had. Allegations of corruption by the Oklahoma Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children about the Baby Veronica case, and many others like it, have been flooding Native News headlines since.

In December 2013, under a now well established "historic" Oklahoma government and Governor, Wilbur and Melissa Goodblanket called the Custer County Sheriff's office 911 for help. Mah-hi-vist "Red Bird" Goodblanket, their son a Cheyenne-Arapaho teenager was distressed. Goodblanket by all accounts was a good student, even graduating high school early, and a good person. He was suffering from a medical condition. His parents feared that he might get hurt. According to them, within minutes of two Custer County sheriff's deputies showing up at their home, they shot him 7 times [autopsy confirmed]. Both parents say the teenager was unarmed. The deputies say he had a knife.

No one put much faith into second-hand accounts of Mary Fallin herself having a disdain against Native Americans while in college or otherwise. However, the rumor mill has been whizzing harder with many people saying "apple not far from the tree" since March 2014 when Christina Fallin, her daughter, disrespected Native culture by appropriating sacred regalia for use in a photo shoot done at a Chickasaw casino. The photo and racism against Native Americans caused outrage among many musicians like Ethan Keller and Kliph Scurlock. Kliph Scurlock, a well known drummer, was under the employ of Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips at the time. Scurlock was fired from the band for harshly criticizing Christina Fallin for her blatant attacks on Native Americans. Many of Pink Pony's supporters, whom Coyne is now counted, called Native Americans "sheep". Coyne released a photo of his dog in a head dress to further insult and degrade Native culture.

Then this past weekend Christina Fallin's band, Pink Pony, will be remembered- not by any musical talent they wished to showcase, but by a harrowing tale of Native American protesters. The brave protestors were organized by Choctaw musician Samantha Crain and had been incited to be at the Norman Music Festival by Pink Pony dangling a common Native term "full regalia" in a Facebook post to an already distressed populace of Native people. For hours prior to Pink Pony taking the stage, a national Native Rights activist group EONM (Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry) made phone calls and along with many other Twitter users wanted the festival organizers to bar them from performing or guarantee that further displays of hate directed at Native Americans not happen that night. Sadly, the band Pink Pony even had the crowd engaging in malicious activity against the Native people present and Native sacred culture. In fact, Christina Fallin's brand of "appropriate culturation" is more likely to be taught in public schools throughout the state of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma has no Native American History or Culture curriculum in its public school systems. Although, many state legislatures and most home school curriculum do contain and have adopted wonderful Native History and Culture curriculum. Some schools and libraries have used the work of Debbie Reese and others to remove stereotypical caricatures and portrayals from the shelves and impressionable minds of children. Many feel this should be a federal mandate given the rich history of the Indigenous Peoples in the borders of the US especially given the actions of some states, like Oklahoma, who have a timeline like the one outlined above.

EONM is working with Reality Check and other civil rights organizations to get thousands of signatures on a petition aimed at ending the nefarious goals of people who display clear Native-racism tactics. They want the state of Oklahoma to build a statewide Native American History and Culture Curriculum to be introduced to elementary and middle school aged children. The petition also calls for the creation of a permanent executive branch cabinet position, Oklahoma Secretary of Native American Affairs. The reinstatement, and protection from dissolution, of the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission with a staff of 10-39. A staff of less than that struggles to facilitate meaningful government relations that have been broken by racism between the state of Oklahoma and the 39 Native American Tribal Nations. If these initiatives of combating the escalating racism are not met, the nation as a whole should fear what might come down the track next during the term of Governor Mary Fallin.

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