House approves Native American liaison bill
3/20/2012 4:10:43 PM
BY STAFF REPORTS

OKLAHOMA CITY – State lawmakers voted March 13 to increase the number of individuals qualified to serve as Native American liaisons to the governor of Oklahoma.

Current law states, “Any person appointed to the position of Oklahoma Native American Liaison shall be an American Indian of at least one-fourth blood.”

House Bill 2563, by state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, would change the qualification so that the Native American liaison merely has to be “a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe” possessing “valid proof of membership.”

“To institute a blood-degree requirement duplicates the past discriminatory practices of the federal government,” Wesselhoft said. “The federal government typically set an arbitrary blood-percentage requirement to institute an artificial definition of an Indian and ultimately deny treaty obligations. The state of Oklahoma should not take that path.”

Wesselhoft, a citizen of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, is also an elected representative in that tribe’s legislature.

“Most tribes rely on the historic 1893 Dawes Rolls to ascertain membership in a tribal nation,” Wesselhoft said. “If one is directly related to an Indian listed on the Dawes Rolls, then that person qualifies as an Indian. It is appropriate that the state take its lead from tribal government in this regard.”

Wesselhoft added that imposing any blood degree requirement to obtain a state government job is “discriminatory and ultimately destructive.”

“We should celebrate the diversity of our culture in Oklahoma, not set artificial requirements on what makes someone a ‘true’ Native American,” he said.

The position of Oklahoma Native American Liaison was created last session to replace the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. The governor has not filled the position. Wesselhoft said in the future he plans to author a bill to make the liaison position a Cabinet post.

House Bill 2563 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 62-19 vote. It now proceeds to the state Senate.
Terms of Service and Privacy Policy