Oklahoma Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto on Tribal Insignia Bill
OKLAHOMA CITY — On Thursday, the Oklahoma Legislature overruled Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto of a bill that would allow students to wear Native American insignia during high school and college graduations.
The state House and Senate easily passed the two-thirds threshold needed to maintain the measure, which takes effect July 1 and has received strong support from many Oklahoma-based tribes and citizens. native americans.
This would allow any public school student, including colleges, universities, and technology centers, to wear tribal insignia such as traditional clothing, jewelry, or other adornment at official graduation ceremonies. . Weapons such as a bow and arrow, tomahawk, or warhammer are specifically prohibited.
Stitt, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who has feuded with numerous Oklahoma-based Native American tribes throughout his two terms, vetoed the bill earlier this month, telling the time that the decision should belong to each district.
“In other words, if schools want to allow their students to wear tribal insignia at graduation, good for them,” Stitt wrote in his veto message. “But if schools prefer their students to wear only the traditional cap and gown, the legislature should not stand in their way.”
Stitt also suggested the bill would allow other groups “to demand a special favor to wear whatever they want at an official ceremony.”
Lawmakers also overturned vetoes on several other measures, including one adding Native American health experts to a wellness council and another allowing the existence of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, the subsidiary of the public broadcasting service. of State.
Cherokee Nation Senior Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. thanked the Legislative Assembly Thursday.
“I hope Governor Stitt hears the message that his general hostility toward the tribes is a dead end,” Hoskin said in a statement. “The majority of Oklahomans believe in respecting Native American rights and working with the sovereign tribes that share this land.”
Kamryn Yanchick, a citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, was denied the opportunity to wear a cap decorated with a beaded design when she graduated from high school in 2018.
Being able to “speak unabashedly and be proud of your culture at a celebration without having to ask permission from a non-Native person is really important,” said Yanchick, who is now an advocate for Native American politics.
A Native American former student sued Broken Arrow Public Schools and two employees earlier this month after she was forced to remove an eagle feather from her graduation cap before her high school’s commencement ceremony.
Follow Sean Murphy on Twitter: @apseanmurphy