Fallin vetoes state Native American Day bill
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has vetoed legislation designating Oklahoma Native American Day on the same day the state observes Columbus Day.
The bill, which received bipartisan support in the state House (70-10) and Senate (35-5), would have created a second holiday observance alongside Columbus Day on the second Monday in October by moving Native American Day, which is observed in November, ahead one month to correspond with Columbus Day.
In her veto message, Fallin said combining Native American Day with Columbus Day “could be viewed as an intentional attempt to diminish” support for Native American Heritage Month in November and Oklahoma Native American Day on the third Monday in November.
The Cherokee Nation, which created its own Native American Day on the second Monday in October, strongly supported the bill.
According to a CN press release House Bill 2261 did not call for the repeal of Columbus Day but it would have added the celebration of Oklahoma Native Americans on the same day.
“This is a slap in the face to the 38 federally recognized tribal governments in Oklahoma,” CN citizen and Rep. Chuck Hoskin, who co-authored the bill with fellow CN citizen Sen. John Sparks, said. “As Indian people, we have an undeniable impact here in Oklahoma. Tribes make significant contributions, both financially and culturally, to our home state.”
According to the CN release, 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.
“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,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “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 in the CN release that cities across Oklahoma – such as Tulsa, Norman, Tahlequah and Anadarko – are creating municipal recognition of Native people, a citizenry that makes up nearly 11 percent of Oklahoma’s population, on the second Monday in October.
“As a state, Gov. 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 in the release. “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, Gov. Fallin has failed the sovereign governments of our tribal nations in Oklahoma.”