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Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Tribes calls on Oklahoma Legislature to repeal HB 1775

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2021 Intertribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee Nation, Muscogee Creek Nation, Seminole Nation, Choctaw Nation, Chickasaw Nation

The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Tribes, which consists of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Chickasaw and Muscogee nations, passed a resolution during their quarterly meeting that calls upon the Oklahoma legislature to immediately repeal House Bill 1775 — the so-called "critical race theory" bill that they say is leading to fear and confusion among teachers in the state.

"The vague wording of the law has contributed to fear among school districts and teachers about teaching accurate historical information, including accurate history of the experiences of Native American peoples in Oklahoma," said a statement released by the council following the passage of the resolution.

The resolution reads, in part: "WHEREAS, HB1775 threatens to derail the progress tribes have made in recent years to provide an accurate history of our country and our state’s complex relationship with Native Americans in schools."

This follows the passage of the same resolution last week from the Osage Congress. That proposal was introduced after members of the Osage Congress heard that a high school English teacher in Dewey, wouldn't assign her students the book Killers of the Flower Moon about the Osage reign of terror for fear that it might upset her students.

After Osage Congress passed their resolution, Killers of the Flower Moon author David Grann voiced his support on Twitter.

"I strongly support the Osage Nation's efforts to ensure that it's [sic] history, as well as the history of others, is not suppressed," said Grann.

All five tribal leaders signed on to the Inter-Tribal Council resolution.

"Students deserve to learn accurate history, even the uncomfortable parts," said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. of the Cherokee Nation. "We should respect Oklahoma students enough to know they can handle the truth."

"House Bill 1775 is a solution in search of a problem. It derails the progress Oklahoma has made to teach the full, complex history of our state’s relationship with Native American tribes. Our Five Tribes call on this law to be repealed, because Oklahoma can't move forward unless we understand how we got here."

In 2021, the Oklahoma Legislature passed House Bill 1775 which stated that any educational curriculum or activities that imply any individual should feel discomfort on account of his or her race or sex, among other provisions, should not be included in instructional materials and employee professional development.

In May 2022, rules were established by the Oklahoma State Board of Education, creating a process to punish schools and/or teachers for violating the law related to their accreditation.

Two schools in Oklahoma — Tulsa Public Schools and Mustang Public Schools — have already been given accreditation warnings because of HB 1775.

In their resolution, the Inter-Tribal Council also called on the State Board of Education — which is made up of almost entirely appointees from Gov. Kevin Stitt — to refrain from enforcing the rules related to HB 1775, until the law is repealed or clarified.

Jim Gray, former principal chief of the Osage Nation advocated for members of the tribal nation's congress to pass a resolution. He thinks it could have an effect when people head to the polls this November.

"I'm hopeful that Native people and tribes are included as stakeholders in public education just like everyone else is and their voice should be heard when policymakers craft legislation that affects their communities, " wrote Gray in a statement to KOSU.

"My hope is that the legislature sees these resolutions as evidence that it's created problems and take the necessary steps to correct them."

State lawmakers could clarify the language when the Oklahoma Legislature reconvenes in February 2023, but it’s unclear if this resolution or the one by the Osage Congress will have any effect.

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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