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Native American Day bill sent to Oklahoma governor

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The Oklahoma State Capitol. [Photos by Thomas Maupin, For The Oklahoman]
The Oklahoma State Capitol. [Photos by Thomas Maupin, For The Oklahoman]

Legislation to move Oklahoma’s Native American Day to coincide with Columbus Day is headed to Gov. Kevin Stitt.

The bill presents an opportunity for Stitt, a Cherokee Nation member, to distance himself from former Gov. Mary Fallin, who vetoed similar legislation last year.

The legislation, which was requested by Oklahoma tribes, would move the state's Native American Day from the third Monday in November to the second Monday in October, which is currently Columbus Day.

Senate Bill 111 introduced by Sen. Michael Bergstrom, R-Adair, and sponsored in the House by Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, overwhelmingly passed both chambers with bipartisan support. The bill cleared a final legislative hurdle Monday when the House passed the measure on a 81-17 vote.

Tribal leaders were shocked last year when Fallin vetoed a similar bill. She wrote in her veto message that it "could be viewed as an intentional attempt to diminish" other designations, such as the Native American Heritage Month in November.

On Jan. 11, leaders of Oklahoma's Five Tribes — the Cherokee, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles — passed a resolution fully supporting the bill that is now on Stitt’s desk.

Several other states celebrate Native Americans on Columbus Day. South Dakota celebrates Native American Day in lieu of Columbus Day, and Vermont and Alaska observe Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday in October.

The legislation awaiting action from Stitt does not seek to do away with Columbus Day in Oklahoma, but would add Native American Day as a second holiday observance alongside Columbus Day on the second Monday in October.

Carmen Forman

Carmen Forman covers the state Capitol and governor's office for The Oklahoman. A Norman native and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she previously covered state politics in Virginia and Arizona before returning to Oklahoma. Read more ›

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