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Oklahoma house committee angers state's American Indian tribes


Gazette staff February 15th, 2007

A bill that the state House's General Government and Transportation Committee passed last week has ruffled the feathers of many of the state's American Indian tribes (you know, the...

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A bill that the state House's General Government and Transportation Committee passed last week has ruffled the feathers of many of the state's American Indian tribes (you know, the people who lived in Oklahoma " not to mention the nation " first).

House Bill 1423, proposed by Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, calls for a recognized state language " English " which, critics say, would ignore the state's rich, diverse cultural heritage. The bill passed out of committee with a 9-7 vote and now will be sent to the House floor, The Associated Press reported.

 

George Tiger, chairman of the United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, called the bill "divisive" in a statement released Feb. 8 urging legislators to keep the bill from advancing any further.

 

Apparently, in a lunch-line conversation with Secretary of State M. Susan Savage in the Capitol's rotunda last week, the bill's author confused Savage's interest with support, leading reps to drop her name as a supporter of the legislation before the committee, Savage wrote in a Feb. 7 memo to the state's House.

 

In fact, Savage seemed to agree with Tiger, calling the bill "unnecessary." "No problem exists, it is divisive, and it diminishes cultures that are part of our history, present and future," she wrote.

 

Other critics of making English the state's official language point to World War II and the codes used by American Indians to protect soldiers overseas.

 

But, perhaps that's all brouhaha clouding the central issue. According to Oklahoma City's KSBI-TV Channel 52, the bill is intended to encourage Latino immigrants to assimilate. It would require all official state business to be conducted or printed in English.

 

"To participate in society you need to be able to communicate with that society," Faught told The Oklahoman.

 

That said, his bill offers no solution to the lack of English-education courses available to foreign-born citizens. Chicken-Fried News' intern, Bucky, is confused. Exactly how is this going to improve communication? And isn't legislation supposed to help solve problems, not create them? 

 
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