A recent story about Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin's visit to the Choctaw Nation's Labor Day festivities contained a factual error, and presented the opinions of Tribal citizens without comment from the Choctaw Nation's press office. Lisa Reed, Public Relations Director of the Choctaw Nation, contacted Indian Country Today Media Network with a request that we correct the error and allow her to present her organization's side of the story.
The error (which has been corrected in our previous story) was the statement that Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin unveiled a statue honoring Choctaw women over this past Labor Day weekend. There were protests planned and written about in the press where outraged Choctaw Nation citizens voiced their disagreement with the Governor’s visit. Indian Country Today Media Network contacted the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and got confirmation that the governor was there to sign a compact, but nothing else could be confirmed or denied without an official statement, which did not come until after the story was published. We apologize to our readers for the mistake, but all other information we received confirmed that the Governor was there to unveil the statue.
Reed said she was unaware of anything in the press leading up to the event. “There was controversy when several tribal members learned about the Governor coming to our festival; there were many who realized that it was an honor for any Oklahoma governor to come to our sovereign land,” said Reed. “Fallin was the first governor to come to our capitol.”
“Most of our citizens who were upset really, probably didn’t have all of the facts and they were just upset that they heard she was going to be here,” Reed continued. “They didn’t think it through that when the governor of a state wants to come to a festival that that is an honor. I know there was controversy with her daughter [Christina Fallin, who offended Native Americans by posing in a headdress] and several things that were done in the past, but I think it was a wonderful opportunity to teach the governor and anyone else what our Choctaw people are all about.”
Reed confirmed that the Governor did not go to the pow wow and that she stood beside Joe Dorman, her Democratic challenger in the 2014 Oklahoma Governor’s race, and watched the unveiling, but she did not participate in it.
The statue in question, “The Giver of Life” depicted former council member Charlotte Jackson who passed away in 2010 after a battle with cancer. The statue was unveiled by Charlotte’s daughter, Pat Jones, and son, Kevin Jackson.
The compact the Governor signed is for Choctaw Nation citizens to get a rebate on licensing, registration, registration renewal and payment of excise taxes by showing their citizenship card. The tags will be manufactured and distributed by the State of Oklahoma. “The compact, as far as I know, most people are delighted,” Reed said. “Right now the compact is with all of Oklahoma and it saves our citizens 20%, and they can start getting that in January.”
In the ICTMN report, a Tribal member criticized the Choctaw Nation for having non-Native entertainment at the event, instead opting for performers that would appeal to a mainstream rural sensibility—namely Merle Haggard, Jeff Foxworthy, and Duck Dynasty's' Willie and Korie Robertson. Reed pointed out that Korie Robertson is a Choctaw Nation member.
“Did they tell you that Korie Robertson is a tribal member?” Reed asked. “They probably didn’t. She is a Choctaw tribal member. She has a card, it was confirmed. And I know that that guy at the show (Phil Robertson), that guy is very opinionated and they have their own way of looking at things and that is just the way it is, and if you like them, watch it and come to their concert and if you don’t, don’t. I mean you are going to have so many people compared to the ones who complained about him being there that in that case we had ten times, or twenty times more who were thrilled that they (The Robertsons) were going to be there.”