[Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained the inaccurate statement that Gov. Fallin "unveiled a statue dedicated to Choctaw women." Fallin was present, but did not "unveil" the statue. The statue is of late Tribal member Charlotte Jackson, who died in 2010 after a long battle with cancer, and it was unveiled by Jackson's daughter Pat Jones and son Kevin Jackson.]
There was controversy in the Choctaw Nation this weekend over Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin unveiling a statue at the tribe’s Labor Day celebration and her planned participation in the Grand Entry of the pow wow. Many Choctaw Nation citizens see Fallin as a politician who has worked against tribal interests and considered her an inappropriate choice for a guest at a tribal celebration.
According to Misty Alexander, of the Choctaw Nation’s public relations office, the governor was there to sign a vehicle tag compact with the tribe, which she did.
Choctaw citizen Tim Maxville witnessed the confrontation between Fallin and Choctaw Nation citizen David Townsend, as the Governor was about to line up for the Grand Entry after the unveiling. “David approached Mary Fallin and let her know that she was not welcomed at our camp grounds, she was not welcomed at the pow wow, and there was going to be a protest if she made the Grand Entry. She stuck her hand out, shook his hand, and said 'Well, I suppose you’re welcomed here.' He said 'Yes, Ma’am, I am.'"
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton among those present at the unveiling of the statue 'Honoring the Giver of Life' in front of the Choctaw Nation Capitol.
“We didn’t have to turn our backs on her, because she didn’t show up, but that was what we were going to do, if she wound up in our Grand Entry,” Maxville continued. “We were going to turn our backs and walk out in the middle of everybody. In the Indian community, when you walk out in the middle of the Grand Entry, you don’t have to say anything: it’s going to be intense.”
Inviting the Governor, who disregarded tribal rights in the Baby Veronica case last year, was the final indignity to some of the member of the tribes in a celebration that included Duck Dynasty's' Willie and Korie Robertson, comedian Jeff Foxworthy, and country legend Merle Haggard.
“They couldn’t have paid me to go, it seems like it’s not an event for Natives anymore,” said Choctaw Nation member Charles Wood. “There’s nothing wrong with Jeff Foxworthy, but it shows how out of touch our tribal leadership is with our cultural values. They have a pow wow but all the entertainment seems to be aimed at country, white folks.”
“I don’t understand…” Maxville started, then corrected himself, “…I do understand; it’s corporate. It’s not about the people anymore; the leaders of the tribe think it’s a business, it’s a corporation to them, it’s a money thing.”
The Choctaw Nation was contacted for comment, but did not give a response in time for this story.