Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Fourth Reading: Oklahoma History Redefined

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Fourth Reading: Oklahoma History Redefined

Article excerpt

In 2007, this great state celebrated its 100th anniversary. To celebrate, my family and I traveled to Guthrie. We watched the fun, saw the re-enactments and listened to the speeches.

The primary theme centered on those who made the runs of 1889 and 1893. We paid homage to those who settled the territory and who fought to make it a state. The Boomers and Sooners, despite their disdain for the law, were celebrated as heroes.

And those wildcatters and the hardscrabble folk who settled here were held up as role models.

They are all a part of our history.

But one thing was missing from this celebration: an equal focus on those who called the land of the red man home long before the rest of us got here. Sure, there were mentions of the Native Americans during that time, but their culture and their history didn't play as important a role.

Seventy-seven years before Oklahoma became a state, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. That piece of legislation forced many Native American tribes from their homes, marched them across the country, and settled them in Oklahoma - the land of red men.

After that, there were agreements, and legislation and treaties - most of which were broken, changed or not kept.

It was this attitude, this manifest destiny idea, that marked how the rest of the world viewed the Native American: inferior, subhuman and savage.

For decades, Oklahoma's Native American population was seen, but not heard.

They were pushed aside for the sake of progress. The descendents of those from the land run carved out a state, built an economy, and formed a government - without the Native Americans.

Fast-forward a century.

Almost two centuries after the Trail of Tears, Oklahoma stands at a crossroads. Our state's economy continues to struggle to right itself, our educational system has seen huge budget cuts and our Legislature and leaders are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to plug what is expected to be another $1 billion hole in a $6 billion budget.

The picture isn't pretty.

For all of our hot air, we Oklahomans are still trying to prove to the rest of the world that we're good at something besides football and political scandals. …

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