OKMULGEE, Okla. – Well, it seems that tribal and state governments will be squaring off in another legal arena. This time, it’s over traffic tickets.
Let’s see…an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer ticketed an Otoe-Missouria woman for speeding and for not paying state motor vehicle taxes. The woman did have a tribal license plate, but according to the state she did not pay the state vehicle taxes because she did not live on her tribe’s reservation land. Here is where it gets tricky. Apparently, it all depends on whether or not she lived on a reservation. And so, the battle continues.
November was quite the month for observances of Native American people; Native veterans and Native American Heritage Month. It seems that a lot more folks are paying attention to the heritage month, including local news agencies.
Honoring veterans is something everyone is doing, and it’s a delight to see tribal Honor Guards playing an important part.
Speaking of the recently observed Native “holiday”, here’s what the U.S. Census Bureau says, “The first American Indian Day was celebrated in May 1916 in New York. The event culminated an effort by Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, who rode across the nation on horseback seeking approval from 24 state governments to have a day to honor American Indians. In 1990, more than seven decades later, then-President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating the month of November ‘National American Indian Heritage Month.’”
Similar proclamations have been issued every year since 1994 to recognize what is now called “American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.” This Facts for Features presents statistics for the American Indian and Alaska Native population, one of the six major race categories defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.
Did you ever wonder what the latest count of Native Americans is within the U.S. population? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “The current total population of Native Americans in the United States is 6.79 million which is about 2.09% of the entire population. There are about 574 federally recognized Native American tribes in the U.S.”
The following are the 10 largest Indian tribes; Navajo Nation (399,567), Cherokee Nation (292,555), Choctaw Nation (255,677), Chippewa (214,026), Sioux (207,684), Blackfeet (159,394), White Mountain Apache (15,791), Muscogee (Creek) Nation (108,368), Haudenosaunee Nations (114,568), and the Blackfeet Nation (17,321).
Buffy Sainte-Marie, the world-renown Canadian Indigenous performer and folk singer is the latest Indigenous personality whose ancestry has come under scrutiny. Her birth certificate lists her as Beverley Jean Santamaria, according to a documentary produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). A story by Indianz.com says the documentary, titled. “Making An Icon” is available on YouTube.
Sainte-Maries’ response has been: “Later in my life, as an adult, she [Winifred Sainte-Marie, her adoptive mother] told me some things I have never shared out of respect for her that I hate sharing now, that I may have been born on ‘the wrong side of the blanket.’ This was her story to tell, not mine.”
Whatever the final determination in this matter, Saint-Marie will remain a “icon” to me for her strength and dedication to Native and Indigenous people. I’ve met and interviewed her and she will always be a part of the international Indigenous family. Quite the lady.
Remember a couple of years back when members of California tribes pulled down a statue of Junípero Serra, an 18th century priest who played a major part in the destruction of tribal people and culture? That statue has been replaced by a figure of Miwok leader William J. Franklin Sr. on the state capitol grounds. According to one of the tribal leaders, “Today’s unveiling signifies the start of a new era here in California at our state capitol one where we stop uplifting a false narrative and start honoring the original stewards of this land,” (Remember that genocide paid for the ‘Gold Rush’ by the way, Serra was made a saint.)
Speaking of new tributes to Natives, here’s one that just came out: A Barbie doll of the first female Cherokee Principal Chief, Wilma Mankiller. It’s part of toymaker Mattel’s “Inspiring Women” collection. The doll is dressed in a Cherokee ribbon dress. Mankiller’s husband, Charlie Soap said of the toy figure, “The Wilma Mankiller Barbie doll is an incredible tribute to Wilma that will share her legacy with even more people.”
There are other Native women dolls in Mattels’ collection. Yes, the doll is supposed to have Barbies’ famous figure, but you can’t really tell under the dress. Osiyo!
With the holiday season upon us, there are lots of opportunities to be generous to our families, friends and neighbors who might not have much of a holiday to celebrate. Remember to think of others and share what you can.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation or Mvskoke Media.