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Tribes Urged To Be Self-Reliant

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  • Tribes Urged To Be Self-Reliant

    Tribes Urged To Be Self-Reliant
    by Judy Gibbs Robinson
    The Oklahoman - 22 Nov. 2005

    Oklahoma City, OK--Her voice careening off the marble walls of the Capitol Rotunda where several hundred people listened, a freshman legislator Monday urged self-reliance for American Indians.

    "We can no longer sit back and allow people to take care of us," state Rep. Lisa Johnson Billy, R-Purcell, said in a keynote address at the state's eighth-annual Native American Heritage Celebration.

    "God didn't put us here to live in chains and bondage and oppression. I'm tired of living in poverty," Billy said.

    This year's celebration, co-sponsored by the Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission and others, was dedicated to language preservation efforts.

    Billy, who is Chickasaw and Choctaw, and Comanche language teacher Geneva Navarro received Oklahoma Spirit Awards for their efforts on behalf of American Indians. Organizers also presented recognition awards to at least 13 individuals representing tribal language programs.

    "We are losing our languages very fast, all of the tribes. I'm very sad because of that," Navarro said. "A few of us who are left are trying to save it," she said.

    In her keynote, Billy discussed some negative statistics about Indians, including the highest teen suicide rate and highest accidental injury rate of any racial or ethnic group.

    Self-reliance is the key to turning negatives into positives, Billy said, noting many tribes are moving in that direction, buying back land they lost in previous centuries and using it to provide education and jobs.

    "I'm honored that this land really is mine, that our tribes have now repurchased our land," Billy said, noting that tribes now are the fourth-largest employer in Oklahoma.

    "That is awesome, especially if you look at where we came from; where we've been," she said.

    The trend toward prosperity through self-reliance must continue, Billy said.

    "I want to be here on the Earth, maybe when my daughter has children, and I want to open up the next Census that says Native American people are now the richest people in health, in finances, in employment of any race," she said.

    "Be good, be kind, help each other."
    "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

    --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)

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