A bill proposed by a Republican state senator in Oklahoma would empower parents to have books that discuss gender identity removed from public school libraries—a measure that rights advocates warned could have life-threatening consequences for LGBTQ+ children across the state. Under Senate Bill 1142, introduced earlier this month by state Sen. Rob Standridge, just one parent would have to object to a book that includes discussion of "sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity" and other related themes in order to begin the process of removal. Upon receiving a written request to remove a book, a school district would have 30 days to eliminate all copies of the material from circulation.
On Monday, November 29, anti-Indigenous Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s futile attempts to undermine and destroy tribal sovereignty through legal avenues ended for good when the US Supreme Court refused his request to reexamine their 2020 McGirt ruling. That decision declared that Oklahoma rightfully remains Indian Territory for criminal jurisdiction, and ever since, Governor Kevin Stitt and his pro-oil “Commission on Cooperative Sovereignty” have fought desperately to overturn it in every legal space available. Chaired by Devon Energy CEO’s Larry Nichols, the commission also includes Continental Resources’ Harold Hamm, pipeline giant Williams Companies’ Alan Armstrong, as well as a litany of fossil fuel industry lobbyists and executives dead set on destroying Oklahoma’s land, air, and water.
Julius Jones has been on death row in Oklahoma for 19 years for a 1999 murder he’s always said he had no part in. Mr. Jones, who is represented by federal attorneys Dale Baich and Amanda Bass, was convicted and sentenced to death at the age of 19 and has now spent half his life in prison, waiting to be executed for a crime that new and compelling evidence suggests he didn’t commit. On Nov. 18, 2021, Oklahoma Gov. Stitt grants Julius Jones life without parole hours before his 4 PM CST execution. Twice, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended that Mr. Jones be granted life with the possibility of parole, given strong new evidence of his innocence.
On Tuesday, July 13th, Indigenous peoples from many nations shut down Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s anti-Indigenous “victim impact” forum, which had no tribal representation and was intended to incite fear among the public in Stitt’s continued effort to subvert and overturn the 2020 McGirt Supreme Court decision. Jordan Harmon, Mvskoke/Creek citizen and tribal attorney described it as “a room literally packed with Natives from all different tribes in unified anger and with a very clear and direct message.” That message? Tribal nations and communities will not back down when it comes to tribal sovereignty and our lands. In a press release issued by Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Principal Chief David W. Hill explained
Any shock that tribal nations have sovereignty over their own land reflects a serious misunderstanding of American history. For Oklahoma – indeed, all of North America – has always been, for lack of a better term, Indian Country. North America was not a vast, unpopulated wilderness when white colonizers arrived in 1620. Up to 100 million people of more than 1,000 sovereign indigenous nations occupied the area that would become the United States. At the time, fewer than 80 million people lived in Europe. America’s indigenous nations were incredibly advanced, with extensive trade networks and economic centers, superior agricultural cultivation, well-developed metalwork, pottery, and weaving practices, as historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz has comprehensively detailed. Unlike Europe, with its periodic epidemics, North America had little disease, Dunbar-Ortiz says. People used herbal medicines, dentistry, surgery, and daily hygienic bathing to salubrious effects. Historically, indigenous nations emphasized equity, consensus and community. Though individualism would come to define the United States, my research finds that Native Americans retain these values today, along with our guiding principles of respect, responsibility and reciprocity.
The U.S. legal system from the Supreme Court on down delivered a suite of rulings over the past week that have reaffirmed Indigenous land rights and environmental protections. From the Virginias to the Dakotas, they pushed back on the industrial development that would have further imperiled tribal lands and the environment. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that 3 million acres of eastern Oklahoma — including most of Tulsa — remain American Indian reservation land. Last Monday, the court also denied a Trump administration request to allow the construction of the long-delayed northern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry slurry crude from the Alberta tar sands to Nebraska.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation was not officially terminated at Oklahoma statehood, as justices issued a decision that may upend state jurisdiction in much of eastern Oklahoma. “The federal government promised the Creek a reservation in perpetuity,” the 5-4 decision states. “Over time, Congress has diminished that reservation. It has sometimes restricted and other times expanded the Tribe’s authority. But Congress has never withdrawn the promised reservation.” The decision is expected to have huge implications for criminal, and possibly civil, matters across much of the land that was once Indian Territory. The state attorney general’s office has warned of hundreds of criminal convictions being overturned.
Between 150 and 200 protesters peacefully marched from the Ralph Ellison Library to the Governor's Mansion on Saturday to deliver a double-barreled message. “We aren’t going to allow people to come into our communities and brutalize us,” event organizer Omar Chatman said before the event. “If you come into our community, know we are armed.” The 1000 Brothers and Sisters in Arms protest might not have approached its eponymous numbers, but it bore enough artillery to pop the National Rifle Association's buttons. Community organizer Michael Washington was among the speakers who said the march was a response to the recent killings of Black men by police as well as local cases they want reopened.
Largest Sentence Commutation In US History: Nearly 500 Inmates Walk Free After Oklahoma Voters Demand Reform
Oklahoma voters' approval of a referendum in 2016 allowed for nearly 500 inmates to walk free on Monday from the state's massive prison system—the largest single-day commutation in U.S. history. Four hundred and sixty-two people had their sentences commuted as a result of Question 780, which asked voters if they approved of recategorizing many felonies, including drug possession and minor property crimes, as misdemeanors. The referendum passed by a 16 percent margin.
Many of us are lucky enough that we do not have to worry about where our next meal will come from. Unfortunately, not everyone is so blessed. That is why Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma food banks and other organizations across the state are building partnerships to address this problem. October marks the beginning of the annual Feeding Oklahoma Drive, a month-long campaign to support the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation Businesses is a lead sponsor of this campaign.
As the Network for Public Education documents a billion dollars wasted on failed charter schools, the national news is full of the latest charter financial scandals stretching from New Jersey to California. We can’t forget, however, that virtual charters, like Oklahoma’s Epic for-profit charters, have the potential of producing even more harm to our poorest students. The millions of dollars invested in Epic allow adults to pretend that thousands of students have not been abandoned, merely because they have enrolled in the online school.
Numerous stories began in Mexico and Central America. Anonymous explained in “Gunshots” that his mom had been a “coyote,” passing immigrants from Central America to the U.S. She “never got caught by la migra, … she was caught by the sicarios in the frontera,” and that was more dangerous. It was only after she became pregnant that 5 minutes of consecutive gunfire in the plaza convinced the family to migrate and “the fear of losing our most beautiful thing that finally made us leave.” Dahila didn’t want to leave Mexico but her family “set her by force because things in Mexico were very dangerous.” She had papers but the officer said, “You are not from the United States … you are like those Indians, who are lying around.” Dahila was intimidated by the process but it caused a delay that made her Grandma happy. By the time they were approved, the scanners were turned off so they got through with the tamales in their bags that she brought from Mexico.
On Thursday afternoon, Oklahoma’s largest educators association announced an end to the nine-day walkout, saying lawmakers “won’t budge an inch.” The group said that it would take the $479 million in extra school funding educators got from lawmakers before the strike — a fraction of the $3.3 billion they had demanded — and that members would return to work. “I call on our community members to continue supporting these educators as they walk back into the classroom. We want as much support from them after the walkout as they received during the walkout,” Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said during a press conference. The OEA framed the walkout as a victory that ended with millions of dollars more in school funding. Priest said that most of OEA’s members wanted to resume classes.
Oklahoma City elementary school teacher Madeline Scott told her students about the statewide teacher walkout on the last day of classes before it began on April 2. Their reaction surprised her. “The students were weirdly supportive, even though they are 10 years old,” Scott recalled. “They said, ‘We do need glue sticks.’” She said one student, Miguel, was anxious. “What am I going to eat?” he asked. Miguel, a fourth grader at Adams Elementary, depends on school for free breakfast and lunch. Scott said his four siblings do, too. (Scott declined to give Miguel’s last name.) “Will there be food for all of us?” he asked. Scott assured him there would. Since Monday last week, thousands of Oklahoma teachers in at least 50 school districts have refused to work until the Oklahoma Legislature gives them a $10,000 raise, a $5,000 raise for support staff and $200 million in additional education funding.