During the 2022 Tzi Sho Session, the Eighth Osage Nation Congress unanimously approved a resolution in support of urging Oklahoma state legislators to repeal House Bill 1775 known as the critical race theory bill.
At issue in HB 1775, passed by state lawmakers in 2021, is the bill’s mandate to prohibit teachings in Oklahoma public schools and charter schools including that “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”
The ON Congressional resolution – ONCR 22-17 sponsored by Congresswoman Whitney Red Corn – notes “there has been public concern that this law prohibits the school system from teaching about history when it contains racial issues, such as slavery and the war waged on Native Americans by the United States government. The vague nature of the law has created anxiety among Oklahoma educators.”
In response to a Tulsa World article on ONCR 22-17, retired Claremore Public Schools teacher Ken Seidel wrote an Oct. 5 Letter to the Editor praising the Congressional resolution. “I applaud the Osage Nation Congress for unanimously passing a resolution to repeal (HB 1775). The ambiguity of this law makes it impossible for history to be accurately taught in Oklahoma, making teachers even more uncomfortable with their profession. The challenge of recruiting and retaining teachers is already difficult.”
Before the Sept. 30 vote, several Osage Congress members opined on the resolution.
“Recently a Dewey High School teacher voiced concerns over teaching (the David Grann-authored book) ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ because she was afraid if a student complained it could lead her to losing her teaching license – Think about what I just said,” Congressman Billy Keene told his colleagues. “This bill is a solution to an imaginary problem … The purpose of education is to make you feel uncomfortable, to have hard conversations, I’m proud to serve on a tribal body that is standing up to such ignorance and stupidity that I’d like to see other Oklahoma tribes do the same – Let’s all unite against this bill.”
Also, in response to ONCR 22-17, Grann commented on Twitter, stating: “I strongly support the Osage Nation’s efforts to ensure that its history, as well as the history of others, is not suppressed … History eventually emerges despite attempts to erase it. For those who want to delve deeper into Osage history, I recommend the latest podcast In Trust by Rachel Adams-Heard.”
Congressman Eli Potts said “those who don’t learn from their history are doomed to repeat it. We heard in our Education Committee that teachers are scared to speak the truth about what’s happened, our education advocates are scared to speak the truth because of what this bill is. I personally have had schools and I know of others who had Osage individuals who were scheduled to speak on “Killers of the Flower Moon” rescind those offers because of this bill. We owe it to those before us to speak the truth… regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you feel because it’s the truth.”
Congresswoman Paula Stabler said she was appalled when first hearing of HB 1775 and recalled there have been movements arguing the Holocaust didn’t happen and slavery wasn’t that bad. “I am thoroughly outraged, I’m proud of us today to practice our inherent sovereignty to go against this bill,” she said.
Congressman Joe Tillman said he spoke about HB 1775 with former Principal Chief Jim Gray who was also upset about the bill and thanked him for the conversation and urged that Congress should also step up and oppose HB 1775. He then thanked Red Corn for sponsoring ONCR 22-17, which has co-sponsors Potts, Pam Shaw, Tillman, Congressional Speaker Alice Goodfox, Keene, John Maker, Otto Hamilton and Stabler listed.
Red Corn thanked her colleagues for supporting ONCR 22-17 as “a united front in this.” Red Corn said she is sharing thoughts not only as a legislator, but also as a parent, an Osage woman and educator by profession.
In her remarks, Red Corn said: “We know that when we learn history in a factual manner, it stirs feelings of compassion, injustice and unfairness. It shows us moments in our past where we did not respect our fellow human beings. History is emotional – as it should be. When we fail to feel the weight of history, we risk repeating it, but we learn it to grow from it. We seek to preserve and perpetuate a full and abundant way of life and we as Osages seek to leave this world as better than we found it. Our history as Osage people is rich and is worthy of teaching, as is the history of our neighboring nations and peoples. My sincere hope as a citizen of this Osage Nation and these United States of America is that we fully embrace our histories and seek to learn from them and to grow and refine our character to be better citizens and to be better to one another… We, this body of Congress, ask that this House Bill 1775 be fully repealed. Doing so will pave the way for our educators to have the freedom to teach history without fear or reservation and will ensure that all of our children receive a thoughtful and honest representation of our history as a people.”
In conclusion, ONCR 22-17 states: “The Osage Nation, being fully aware of the positions both for and against this legislation, and being aware of the confusion surrounding HB 1775, both real and manufactured, urges and supports the repeal of HB 1775 by the Oklahoma Legislature at the next legislative session for the benefit of the school districts of Oklahoma and the children they serve.”
After its 12-0 passage, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear also signed ONCR 22-17.