OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Enoch Kelly Haney, a legendary Oklahoman who was a Seminole Nation Chief, state senator and representative and renowned artist who created the bronze Guardian that stands atop the Oklahoma State Capitol, has died at age 81.
Brian Palmer, Assistant Chief of the Seminole Nation, announced Haney’s death on Saturday.
“With a heavy heart, the Seminole Nation woke to the news of the passing of Chief Kelly Haney. An inspiration to many, an accomplished [artist], his work with the State and later as Chief highlighted his career, but his greatest achievement is that of family,” Palmer said on the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma’s Facebook page. “Keep his family in prayer and may they find comfort in knowing the Seminole Nation and Indian Country mourns his loss.”
Haney was a man of many accomplishments. The Oklahoma Arts Council’s profile of Haney describes him as a “modern-day renaissance man.”
He was born on Nov. 12, 1940, the son of a full-blood Seminole and Creek Indian, and was raised in Seminole.
His grandfather was Seminole Chief in the 1940s.
Haney carried on his grandfather’s leadership legacy.
He had a lengthy career in public service that included serving as Principal Chief of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, as well as stints in both the State Senate and State House of Representatives. He also ran for Oklahoma Governor.
Haney also distinguished himself as a professional artist, earning the title of ‘Master Artist of the Five Civilized Tribes’, according to his profile on the Oklahoma Senate website.
“Haney’s interest in Indian people is evident in his art, as he puts a great amount of energy into the research and documentation of Native American culture and traditions. His work is exacting in its detail and representation of native peoples,” his Arts Council profile states.
Haney’s art is celebrated across the nation, but his most iconic creation, The Guardian, is a towering testament to Native American heritage, perseverance and pride in Oklahoma.
Made from 4,000 pounds of bronze, the 17-foot-tall Guardian has stood with solemn strength atop the Oklahoma State Capitol dome since June 7, 2002.
The Guardian signifies Native Americans who were displaced by the government during the 1800s and the sons and daughters who endured the devastating Dust Bowl.
“The towering statue exemplifies the valor of Oklahomans and their ability to overcome the most horrific catastrophes such as the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City,” Haney’s Arts Council profile states. “The Guardian is a reminder that just below him within the halls of our grand Capitol, the true guardians of Oklahoma, our elected officials and others, are working every day to improve this already magnificent state.”
Haney was also a former Oklahoma National Guard member, businessman, producer and host of a weekly television program, consultant and narrator for the Discovery Channel series, “How the West was Lost,” and an Adjunct Faculty member at Oklahoma City University.