Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill Friday that would have changed the day honoring Native Americans in Oklahoma.
House Bill 2661, authored by Rep. Chuck Hoskin and Sen. John Sparks, both Cherokee Nation citizens, would have established Oct. 8 as Native American Day. The bill passed the House with a 71-10 vote and passed the Senate 35-5.
“This is a slap in the face to the 38 federally recognized tribal governments in Oklahoma,” Hoskin said in a statement. “As Indian people, we have an undeniable impact here in Oklahoma. Tribes make significant contributions, both financially and culturally, to our home state.”
Oklahoma currently has a Native American Day in November, during national Native American Heritage Month. The bill would have moved that day to October on Columbus Day.
“I believe combining a new Native American Day designation with the current Columbus Day holiday could be viewed as an intentional attempt to diminish the long-standing support of November being proclaimed annually as Native American Heritage Month in Oklahoma, and the third Monday in November as Oklahoma Native American Day,” Fallin wrote in a news release.
Hoskin said moving the day to October is significant for educational reasons. He said it was important to recognize that Columbus and Europeans did not discover America, but it’s a fallacy that continues to be taught in schools. Native Americans were here long before Europeans’ arrival, he noted.
“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.”
The Cherokee Nation incorporated it as an official holiday of the tribe through a resolution this year.