“Shame on Stitt!” -tribal citizens’ chant outside the Cox Business Convention Center prior to a forum hosted by State of Oklahoma officials
TULSA, Oklahoma– Over 100 citizens of various tribal nations gathered outside of the Cox Business Center to attend a community forum hosted by the State of Oklahoma on July 13 in order to pray and walk in solidarity before attending the meeting.
According to the state officials, the purpose of the meeting was to deliver information on McGirt but tribal citizens were unhappy with statements from the public officials.
Comprising the panel were Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, Rogers County District Attorney Matt Ballard, Seminole County District Attorney Paul Smith, Wagoner Country District Attorney Jack Thorp, Muscogee County District Attorney Orvil Loge, Okmulgee County District Attorney Carol Iski, Cleveland County First Assistant Travis White, Governors Special Counsel Ryan Leonard, Solicitor General Mithun Mansinghai and TCSO Sheriff Vic Regalado.
According to Brenda Golden (Mvskoke), the purpose of the gathering was to attend the event in unity. Before walking into the building with signs and wearing regalia, tribal citizens shared their concerns with how the state has excluded the tribes from these events and how state elected officials are using fear tactics to undermine sovereignty.
“The plan is to talk here, and gather before walking together before going into the meeting,” Golden said. “Hopefully we can sit together and be visible and attend in unity.”
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has been vocal about the SCOTUS decision that reaffirmed the reservation boundaries of the Muscogee Nation. In media coverage, he has been quoted as saying that the best solution for Oklahoma is to disestablish the reservations.
His handling of state and tribal relations has left many tribal citizens concerned.
Mvskoke citizen Amy Warne, discussed her feelings before attending the meeting. She and many of the indigenous people attending the meeting disagree with Stitt.
According to Warne, her main goal for the event was just to be visible.
“I am here to be visible to the community forum that lacks indigenous representation,” Warne said. “I know that the panel lacks indigenous representation and it is one sided.”
According to Warne, there is a lot at stake for tribal citizens if the Oklahoma Governor were to have his way.
“Everything is at stake, treaties are the supreme law of the land,” Warne said. “The Supreme Court has spoken multiple times; Gov. Stitt is unwilling to listen.”
She said the Governor has earmarked millions of dollars to fight the tribes, after the Supreme Court issued its opinion.
“It is unfortunate that he uses the EPA, tax money to undercut sovereignty,” Warne said. “It is important that he and other officials know that we see what they are doing.”
Every attendee Mvskoke Media spoke with identified as a tribal citizen and resided within the reservation boundaries of the respective tribes that make up Oklahoma.
On July 9, MCN Principal Chief David Hill proclaimed the day “Sovereignty Day,” on the one-year anniversary of the SCOTUS opinion reaffirming the Muscogee Nation boundaries. He was not invited to take part in the forum, but did issue a statement.
Hill’s statement outlined the opportunities and lamented the lack of collaboration from Oklahoma’s elected leaders.
‘We have continually sought collaboration with state and local officials,’ Chief Hill stated. ‘But rather than work together some politicians seem determined to return to the broken systems of the past and are willing to do anything to achieve their goals-even prey upon the pain of victims and their families.’
He also criticized the forum calling it a political campaign.
‘One-sided political campaigns like the one being held here tonight do not promote healing or progress for anyone nor do they make our communities safer,’ Hill’s statement said. ‘I believe firmly that government officials who wish to undermine sovereignty should not expect that we will help them do it by participating in every sensational scheme they can conjure up.’
The forum was packed with indigenous citizens who were very vocal about their concerns. An indigenous audience who had no tolerance for the state’s arguments against sovereignty interrupted Governor Stitt and officials.
While the crowd was vocal, the only person arrested at the event was Paul Tay, political candidate from Tulsa, who was charged with disturbing the peace.
As law enforcement were grappling with Tay, he reached out and grabbed Mvskoke Radio’s Gary Fife, knocking the elder journalist to the ground. Fife was checked out by EMS and reported soreness but is recovering.
The forum ended an hour short of its intended schedule when state officials gave up talking over the vocal crowd.