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Oklahoma Indians oppose English-only language bill

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  • Oklahoma Indians oppose English-only language bill

    Okla. Indians balk at English-only bill
    By Tim Talley, Associated Press Writer
    New Hope Courier - 14 March 2007

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Legislation to make English the state‘s official language has run into opposition from American Indians, who say their native tongues are dying fast enough without any help from lawmakers.

    Many of Oklahoma‘s 37 federally recognized tribes are fighting to save their languages and cultures from extinction years after the end of organized efforts to stamp them out.

    "If you go to English only, what are we going to call the state of Oklahoma?" said Terry Ragan, director of the Choctaw Nation‘s language program. "Even town names in the state will have to be named differently."

    English-only legislation has been adopted in 28 states and measures are pending in 12 states, said Rob Toonkel, director of communications for U.S. English, Inc. of Washington, D.C., an interest-group that supports making English the nation‘s official language. A similar measure has been filed in Congress.

    "It‘s very much an assimilation issue," he said. "We should make sure they become part of the country."

    English-only restrictions were imposed in Indian Territory to expunge tribal languages and culture, said Kirke Kickingbird, an Oklahoma City attorney and member of the Kiowa tribe.

    Chad Smith, chief of the 250,000-member Cherokee Nation, the largest American Indian tribe in the United States, said the state‘s image is harmed when cultural differences are not embraced.

    "To our tribes it says that if there‘s an official language, your language is secondary and all other languages are secondary," said Smith, who has also criticized athletic teams using Indian mascots and names.

    The Intertribal Wordpath Society, a nonprofit group based in Norman, estimates that only about 9,000 people are fluent in the Cherokee language and 4,000 in the Choctaw language.

    "We have absolutely nothing against English. It‘s great if people speak English," said Alice Anderton, a former linguist at the University of Oklahoma and executive director of the Intertribal Wordpath Society. "But it‘s great if people speak English plus some other language of heritage."

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

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

  • #2
    i know many ppl want to use English as the standard language for business interaction, but laws that force "english only" are motivated by racism more than anything else
    There is only one success; to be able to live your life in your own way.


    • #3
      I totally agree!

      Say NO to racist legislation!!!!
      The only time its too late to start dancing is when you're dead.


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