Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release:
April 2, 2008
Sen. Harry Coates
Sen. Coates Shocked and Saddened After Cherokee
Principal Chief Silenced
During House Committee Hearing on English-Only Bill
State Sen. Harry
Coates said he was appalled that Chad Smith, Principal Chief
of the Cherokee Nation, was “gaveled down” during a
House committee hearing on legislation to make English the “official”
language of Oklahoma.
“The Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation was not allowed
to share his concerns about the legislation and was treated badly,”
said Coates, R-Seminole. “I believe he should have been given
the courtesy of expressing his views in what is supposed to be the
Smith said he found it very odd that he was not allowed to speak,
but that public input was allowed later in that same committee on
another bill. He also said he was offended that the measure’s
author, Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, was attempting to use the “awesome
power” of the State of Oklahoma to forcibly assimilate people.
“We’ve been trying to resist forced assimilation for
centuries. It’s probably one of the most patronizing and paternalistic
insults that I’ve ever heard,” Smith said. “...what
this has become is a badge and a brand of intolerance, mean-spiritedness,
close-mindedness (and) cold-heartedness.”
Coates pointed to the tremendous contribution of the Native American
Code-Talkers whose ability to pass on sensitive information in tribal
languages aided the effort by the allies to win World War II.
Coates said despite exemptions in the bill for languages of the
39 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma, he’s also heard
from other tribal members and leaders who oppose this legislation
as divisive and discriminatory.
“They remember all too well a time when Native Americans were
targeted by English-only school policies that were part of an effort
to destroy their culture and way of life. There are many stories
of Indian children who were literally beaten as punishment for not
speaking English,” Coates said.
Coates said he had no doubt the bill has its supporters.
“I’m sure hate groups like the KKK applaud the actions
taken today. Are these the people we really want to pander to?”
The amended bill will now go before the full House of Representatives.
“I’m certain SB 163 will pass in the House, and then
it will come straight back to the Senate Floor for a final vote.
But before that happens, I hope that people will think about the
serious ramifications this will have for Oklahoma, putting us in
an even more negative light world-wide and promoting greater discrimination
against all minorities.”
For more information contact:
Senator Coates' Office: (405) 521-5547