OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin has vetoed a bill that would have recognized Native American Day on Columbus Day.
House Bill 2661, authored by Rep. Chuck Hoskin, D, and Sen. John Sparks, D, passed the House with a vote of 71-10, and also passed the Senate with a vote of 35-3, reports the Tulsa World. Hoskin and Sparks are both Cherokee Nation citizens.
The bill would have established October 8, which is currently Columbus Day, as Native American Day.
Oklahoma’s Native American Day falls on the third Monday in November. November is also national Native American Heritage Month.
Friday, Governor Fallin vetoed the bill and released the following statement, according to the Tulsa World.
“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.'”
Hoskin says the veto is a slap in the face to tribal governments, and that it would have been important for educational reasons.
“This is a slap in the face to the 38 federally recognized tribal governments in Oklahoma,” Hoskin said. “As Indian people, we have an undeniable impact here in Oklahoma. Tribes make significant contributions, both financially and culturally, to our home state.”
The Cherokee Nation says they endorsed the effort, along with other tribes and community leaders.
“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.”