Date: November 28, 2007 5:48:56 PM PST
Native people from Oklahoma demonstrate, exercising their human right to the truth of their own history. Their actions also guard “against the development of revisionist” versions of what actually happened.
From the article below: “The state needs to hear some of our views – the treaties, the deceit, the lies told by the people who created the state,” Les Williston, Choctaw, said. “There is a serious lack of memory when it comes to the true history of the state.”
Two general principles in international law of the right to know are:
PRINCIPLE 2. THE INALIENABLE RIGHT TO THE TRUTH
Every people [including Indigenous peoples] has the inalienable right to know the truth about past events concerning the perpetration of heinous crimes and about the circumstances and reasons that led, through massive or systematic violations, to the perpetration of those crimes. Full and effective exercise of the right to the truth provides a vital safeguard against the recurrence of violations.
PRINCIPLE 3. THE DUTY TO PRESERVE MEMORY
A people’s knowledge of the history of its oppression is part of its heritage and, as such, must be ensured by appropriate measures in fulfilment of the State’s [the federal government’s] duty to preserve archives and other evidence concerning violations of human rights and humanitarian law and to facilitate knowledge of those violations. Such measures shall be aimed at preserving the collective memory from extinction and, in particular, at guarding against the development of revisionist and negationist arguments.
Hundreds oppose centennial celebration at Capitol
More than 500 Native Americans march near the state Capitol for the Oklahoma Indians Survival Walk to remember the sacrifices of their ancestors. (Photo by Sherniec Scraper)
By JoKay Dowell
Cherokee Phoenix staff writer
OKLAHOMA CITY – Saying it was a time to remind and remember that statehood was not a celebratory event for all, more than 500 Native Americans rallied at the State Capitol with dancing, singing and calls for an end to land run re-enactments inOklahoma schools.
Native Americans, some wearing traditional cultural clothing, and their supporters began to gather four blocks south of Oklahoma’s Capitol building with banners, signs, drums and bullhorns while police looked on from their vehicles.
Within an hour the crowd of nearly 200 adults, elders and children began moving north toward the Capitol shouting in unison and carrying signs reading, “This Land is Our Land,” “The Land Run was Illegal Immigration,” and “Stop Racial and Cultural Inequality.” At the front of the procession several people bore a banner that read, “Why celebrate 100 years of theft?”
Muscogee Creek Nation citizen Brenda Golden, an organizer of the Oklahoma Indians Survival Walk and Remembrance Ceremony, said she wanted to make a statement that not all Oklahoma Indians feel like celebrating what they see as an affront to the true history of how Oklahomawas legislatively stolen from the people to whom it was promised.
We want to remember where our ancestors came from and what they sacrificed,” she said. “When our ancestors were moved here, they were told this was going to be Indian Territory forever.”
Oklahoma became the 46th state on Nov. 16, 1907. Governor Brad Henry and the legislature celebrated Friday with a parade and re-enactments of the original statehood announcement in Guthrie, the state’s first capital. Organizers of the Survival Walk intended to have their event coincide with those in Guthrie.
On reaching the south Capitol steps, the crowd grew to more than 500. Welcoming speeches were made before a Creek elder sang a traditional Muscogee song. Then another, described as being from the American Indian Movement, was sung before the group proceeded to a small park in front of the Capitol. Tribal elders recalled stories of hardships endured by their parents and grandparents when they were marched by the thousands to what was then Indian Territory more than a century ago.
“It was hard in those days. We were separated from our families and sent off to boarding schools,” said 84 year-old Delaware elder Marvene Watkins. “We were punished for speaking our own language.”
Some speakers related past history to present concerns.
Casey Camp-Horinek, a Ponca from Marland, Okla., cited the Ponca Tribe’s lawsuit against Continental Carbon Company for polluting Ponca tribal lands as an example of how Native communities in Oklahoma still deal with contemporary issues related to colonialism like industrial defilement of Indian lands.
“Our people continue to deal with racism,” she said. “In our part of this state it includes environmental racism.”
A host of speakers representing several Oklahoma Indian nations addressed many areas of concern. Illegal immigration was related to both groups of state founders, the “Boomers,” early advocates of settlement in the “unassigned lands” who began what is referred to as the “Boomer movement,” and the “Sooners” or those who entered illegally to lay claim to lands before the designated entry time.
Speakers pointed to education and how history is taught in Oklahomaschools. Many participants said they are offended by the land run celebrations in elementary school settings.
“For starters those who develop Oklahoma history curriculum should remove re-enactments of the land runs that opened Indian lands for white settlement,” she said. “It’s demeaning to American Indians for that to be re-enacted annually in the schools. I just tell my children go sit in the middle of the lawn and let the other kids run over you because that’s what happened to our ancestors.”
Many who attended wanted to ensure that the untold story leading to statehood was remembered.
“The state needs to hear some of our views – the treaties, the deceit, the lies told by the people who created the state,” Les Williston, Choctaw, said. “There is a serious lack of memory when it comes to the true history of the state.”
Non-Indian participants understood why the event is important.
“We’re all in this thing together. We shouldn’t deny the truth of what really happened,” said Nathaniel Batchelder, director of the Oklahoma City Peace House. “It is stolen land. And it continues around the world today.”
Most, like Dwain Camp, a Ponca from White Eagle, said he was never interested in participating in the state’s celebration and vowed to remain a constant reminder to the official version of history.
“We’re not going to do-si-do with the white man today,” Camp said. “We’re going to do this as long as they celebrate stealing our land.”
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