A map of the Oklahoma Territory, and the Indian Territory, circa 1890.

Once upon a time, "sources say," Tom Cole did not support the idea of approving a Cherokee Nation delegate to Congress. Whatever the reason for that earlier hesitation, he seemed sympathetic to the idea in a hearing in Congress, where he is a Very Important Person (VIP).
Once upon a time, the historical record documents that Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby did not believe Oklahoma had any reservations. In fact, he even indicated the state of Oklahoma and major tribes were working together just fine, and didn't need reservations.
But then came McGirt v. Oklahoma, a victory for the Creek Nation (Muscogee) against Oklahoma, a 5-4 edict that eroded the state's sovereignty and ultimately put the status of nearly half of Oklahoma into a kind of Limbo.
Eventually all of the Big Tribes decided they liked the restoration (or recognition) of reservations. The finding has been ameliorated somewhat for criminal matters, but the impact of McGirt is like a certain brand of battery – it keeps going (and taking) and going (and taking) …
The most "Limbo-ed" of all the tribal nations in the area still known as Oklahoma may be the small United Ketoowah Band, considered by many historians the most authentic (rooted in history) 'branch' of the ancient Cherokee people. Their aspirations have been thwarted and they are still -- to put it mildly -- stymied as they seek greater economic opportunities.
Once upon a time, the governor of Oklahoma, a member of the Cherokee Tribe, tried to extend some gaming options to smaller tribal nations, but the Big Tribes and their allies stymied the effort. You know, sort of like the Big Trusts and monopolies in the bad-old-days. Stitt is making another push on this … perhaps.
Much of my writing about smaller tribal nations now resident in Oklahoma has focused on the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes, and the Caddo. That does not mean I don’t care about others, which is why I’ve focused on others, including …
Once upon a time, the Comanche people, through their government, defended what they believed was their rights on a parcel of land in southwest Oklahoma. But the Chickasaw considered it their land.
The Comanche did their best, in the courts.
But then, along the way, the federal government issued an undisclosed ruling in favor of the Chickasaw (although such things were supposed to be a matter of “consultation” among interested parties). One day, the bulldozers showed up on behalf of the Chickasaw leaders, to start clearing soil on on land that Comanche scholars believed to be burial ground for their ancestors in pre-statehood days. The bulldozers arrived without the expected notice, because the decision to allow the ‘dozing to begin was issues in secret, then implemented in public. And upon judicial review, the power play worked.
Some people think history is bunk.
I think it's kind of interesting.
And I believe some interesting history is being made, this time pretty much right in front of our eyes.
Whether it is good or bad depends on the eyes of the beholders.
Newly-elected U.S. Senator MarkWayne Mullin, a Cherokee, seems to think a delegate for the Tribe is a fine idea:
"As a member of the Cherokee Nation, I firmly believe the federal government must honor its trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Nations. We are only as good as our word.”
The U.S. Constitution promises to all citizens they will live and be governed in a Republic, as in separation of powers among the branches of government, a conscious model to leave a lot of things to the local level of governance, and the protections of due process and equal justice law – including for dissenters within a tribal nation.
Native Americans (referred to as Indians, in most applying federal statutes and historic legal decisions) have been American citizens since at least 1922. But some Cherokees have seen their rights trampled in the new resurgence of reservation status for Big Tribes, and confusion after McGirt.
In the end, history is not bunk, even if you want it to be.
And contrary to some notable writers, until things end, there will never be a time we can aptly deem “The End of History.”
Tom Cole and I are both historians by training and inclination.
He has for decades been a politician. I am a mere journalist.
He does his thing. I do mine.
My chosen profession (more of an avocation, these days) is explicitly protected in the Constitution, as amended.
Tom Cole has certain legitimate protections in law and custom – and a powerful code of silence among those who reside most of the time in “The Swamp” … as someone called it … before endorsing loads of residents of the Swamp.
Tom Cole's "evolution" over the past two decades has surprised and disappointed me.
I suspect he feels the same way about me – at least the disappointed part.
For now, I'll just say that the latest chapter in Tom Cole’s evolution is another one of those things that makes an inquiring mind go "hmmmm."
And: "What's up with that?"
Note: A member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, Pat McGuigan of The Oklahoma City Sentinel has written about Indian Country often in the past five decades.



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