Correction: Native American-Columbus Day story
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — In an April 25 story about Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signing a bill to celebrate a day for indigenous people on Columbus Day, The Associated Press reported erroneously that Stitt was the first governor in the U.S. to be an enrolled member of a Native American tribe. Former Oklahoma Gov. Johnston Murray, elected in 1950, was an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Oklahoma governor combines Columbus, Native American days
A bill that a broad coalition of Native American groups endorsed to celebrate a day for indigenous people on Columbus Day has been signed into law by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt
By SEAN MURPHY
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A bill that a broad coalition of Native American groups endorsed to celebrate a day for indigenous people on Columbus Day was signed into law Thursday by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, the only current governor in the U.S. enrolled as a member of a Native American tribe.
The Republican said the bill was a fair compromise that gives Oklahoma residents an opportunity to celebrate both the 15th century explorer Christopher Columbus and the state’s indigenous people.
The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, which represents more than 750,000 tribal citizens, passed a resolution earlier this year urging Stitt to sign the measure.
“I think moving it to Columbus Day, I don’t see any downside to it at all,” Stitt said. “It just gives us one opportunity to celebrate Columbus, but also the indigenous people here in America.”
Oklahoma is home to 39 tribes, and more than 7% of the population identifies as Native American, one of the highest proportions in the nation.
Unlike similar measures approved in several other states, including New Mexico earlier this month, the bill does not replace Columbus Day. It moves Oklahoma’s current Native American Day from November to the second Monday in October.
Several Oklahoma communities, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, have already approved similar citywide resolutions.
Oklahoma’s ex-Republican Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a similar bill last year, saying in her veto message that combining the two holidays “could be viewed as an intentional attempt to diminish” support for Native American Heritage Month in November.
But Fallin’s veto last year upset many Native Americans who felt she was insensitive to the issue, said Brandon Scott, a Cherokee Nation citizen and the editor of the tribe’s newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix. For many Native Americans, Scott said, Columbus is symbolic of the colonial movement that led to the death and forced assimilation of indigenous populations.
“I think if you asked, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in a Native community who says: ‘Oh yeah, Columbus was a great guy, let’s be sure to honor him,’” Scott said. “A lot of this has to do with providing an alternative to Columbus Day. In reality, he did horrible things to the indigenous populations where he landed.”
Stitt’s signing of the bill was quickly praised by some of the state’s most powerful tribal leaders.
The change “offers another opportunity to recognize Native Americans as an essential element in the fabric of Oklahoma history, heritage and society,” Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said in a statement.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the day will be an opportunity “for people across the state to celebrate and honor the significant contributions of Native tribes as well as the beautiful culture of our Native people.”
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