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Enoch Haney design will top Oklahoma capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY - Enoch Kelly Haney not only makes laws in the Oklahoma State Capitol Building, soon his sculpture of an American Indian male will grace the top of the capitol dome.

Haney's statue was selected by the Capitol Preservation Commission to sit atop the capitol dome. The work of the state senator and member of the Seminole Nation was among 22 designs submitted by Native American artists for the capitol dome project. Six were selected from the 22 and a panel voted unanimously for "Number 5" in a blind competition. It turned out to be Haney's statue.

"I did what I do after a campaign when people are voting," Haney said. "I always think, I've done all I can do, so I get a couple of friends and we go out and play golf. I had a great day that day."

Haney is a well-known Native American artist and has exhibited his work throughout the world. He has particular reverence for the work of Michelangelo and calls his talent the gift of art.

His design follows commission criteria for a non-specific, American Indian male. The statue is to represent all tribes in Oklahoma.

Selection of a Native American as the subject grew out of the committee's desire to emphasize the Indian heritage of Oklahoma and the fact the state's very name means 'Home of the red people' in the Choctaw language.

Although Haney has not released the name of his model, he said he was a young Choctaw man. At first, he said he found the idea of a "generic Indian male" a little difficult, but he looked back at Native people and how they lived prior to European contact.

He incorporated a lance in his statue because it was the first weapon used to defend the home and to provide food, the shield because it was used universally and four feathers to represent the four directions.

"Four is very significant to Indian people," Haney said, "so is the medicine wheel."

The finished statue will stand between 15 and 16 feet high and will top the 155-foot capitol dome. Haney said exact dimensions of the statue are yet to be determined.

Haney, who said he is honored by the selection of his artwork, is no stranger to prestigious awards. He has been named Honored One at the Red Earth Festival, Indian of the Year, Governor's Art Award winner in the state of Oklahoma and is the Master Artist of the Five Civilized Tribes.

He also was producer and host of a weekly television program and a consultant and narrator for a Seminole series called "How the West was Lost" on the Discovery Channel.

The statue is scheduled for completion in 2002. Dedication of the $20 million capitol dome project will be Nov. 16, 2002, Statehood Day in Oklahoma.

Haney said his model has been moved to the foundry and work is continuing.

A total of $300,000 has been allocated for the statue and the artist was to receive a $50,000 commission. But Haney said he believes that since he is the head of the state appropriations committee, accepting the commission wouldn't be the right thing to do. He said his gift will be the legacy he will leave his children and the Indian people of Oklahoma when they see the statue on the capitol dome.

Haney's Uncle Jerry, chief of the Seminole Nation in Oklahoma, speaks of his pride in his nephew. "I taught him all he knows."

On a more serious note Chief Haney said the selection of his nephew's statue, "is not only going to carry the Seminole tribe. We just had a family reunion and we talked about how the legacy of the Haney's will be carried on from now on. We're really proud of that."

Chief Haney praised his nephew for his hard work for the Indian people in Oklahoma in his position in the State Legislature. "We're really blessed to have someone in that position."

Finalists in the competition were Oklahoma artists, Rosalind Cook, Shan Gray, Harold Holden, Mike Larson and Shirley Thompson-Smith.