Indians mark centennial with protest march at state Capitol

By Tim Talley
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (AP)  11-07

Chanting “no justice, no peace,” American Indians and their supporters marched on the state Capitol November 16 and denounced the events that led to Oklahoma’s statehood 100 years earlier.

Carrying signs that read “Teach the Truth” and “This is the Land of the Red People,” about 500 members of various Oklahoma-based tribes observed Oklahoma’s centennial by recalling the experience of ancestors who were forced from their traditional lands and marched to what became Oklahoma in the 19th century.

“We were here before statehood. We were here first,” said Brenda Golden, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) tribe and one of the march’s organizers.

“We’re not going to dosey-do with the white man today,” said Dwain Camp, a member of the Ponca tribe. “We’re going to do this as long as they celebrate taking our land.”

Oklahoma became the nation’s 46th state on Nov. 16, 1907, after unassigned lands set aside for Indian tribes were carved up for settlement in land runs that began in 1889. The state’s centennial was celebrated Friday with music, parades and re-enactments of the statehood announcement in Guthrie, the state’s first capital.

Marching behind a banner that read “Why Celebrate 100 Years of Theft,” Indian marchers said they are struggling to preserve their heritage 100 years after statehood.

John Momaday, a member of the Kiowa tribe and nephew of N. Scott Momaday, the state’s centennial poet and Pulitzer-prize winning writer, said history books do not teach children about the injustices suffered by Indians following statehood.

“They need to know the truth about what went on,” he said.

Oklahoma is home to 39 Indian tribes. In 2005, about 290,000 Oklahomans, 8.1 percent of the population, identified themselves as American Indian.