LAWTON, Ok (RNN Texoma) -A member of the Comanche Nation is sharing his thoughts after Governor Mary Fallin vetoed House Bill 2661. The bill would have recognized Native American Day on Columbus Day in October. It passed in the House with a 71-10 vote and in the Senate 35-5.
Dr. Cornel Pewewardy wasn't surprised. He said it's irrational to veto a bill that impacts thousands of Native Americans in Oklahoma and the bill would have shown appreciation to their heritage, culture and values.
Dr. Pewewardy said he doesn't understand why Governor Fallin would veto House Bill 2661.
"It's not only a slap in the face, but it's a dismissal of our cultural knowledge and our Indigenous days of knowing. But it also dismisses the voting of the leadership, not only to tribal leadership but the leadership that's dealing with the state, the representatives and the senators so that's why it goes counter," Pewewardy said.
In a statement Governor Fallin said, "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," Fallin said.
"It doesn't surprise me that she had vetoed that, but I'm quite dismayed and encounter her rational because I think it's irrational to veto such a bill that's already been passed by the House and the Senate.
Dr. Pewewardy believes Native American Day is a better alternative to Columbus Day.
"We've resisted colonization and we still do through the work that we do in tribal governments and schools and try to recover from the colonization that has been apart of story for 500 years and so by countering that with Columbus Day we are able to acknowledge that we have been resistant to to that colonel story for 500 years,"Pewewardy said.
Pewewardy said not only are there thousands of Native Americans in Oklahoma, but here in Comanche County there are dozens of Indian tribes including Comanche Nation, the Kiowa's, the Fort-Sill Apaches, and Cheyenne and Arapaho who are leaders in the community.
"I mean just look at the name Oklahoma it's a Choctaw word and means the land of the Red people. I mean how do you dismiss that. I mean that is very important so we are exerting our voice, but it seems to be over written by this veto of the governor because it dismisses the Indigenous voice, and it also dismisses the academic truth," Pewewardy said.
Dr. Pewewardy is also a professor emeritus at Portland State University in Oregon. He has worked with City leaders and passed an official resolution to honor Indigenous People Day instead of Columbus Day on October 8th of this year in Comanche County. He said he is going to continue to educate people about the history and culture of Native Americans.