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Stereotype of the Month Entry
(11/30/02)


Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Racism from up high

Tulsa World Editorial causes concern in Indian Country

(Dec.1, 2002) Tulsa, OK Indian people generally know where most forms of racism are going to appear. From the banker to the street cop who seems to love giving tickets to Native Americans. But when some of the leading newspapers of today decide to place Native people in their crosshairs it seems odd and ugly.

Two major mainstream papers have decided they are going to get into the Indian business and decide what is best for them. The Wall Street Journal while certainly conservative does not usually say much that could be construed as racist. In the November 14th edition, the nation's financial paper decided to reveal its discomfort with the new Indian voting power. Indians are all right so long as they don't vote and certainly don't vote against their candidate. Specifically the paper says the problem with voting irregularities was so bad it may have influenced the election in which incumbent U.S. Senator Tim Johnson squeaked by U.S. Rep. John Thune. Johnson won by a mere 524 votes, and was actually behind Thune by several thousand votes before Pine Ridge voters gave him the victory. Thune did not ask for a recount even though in his concession speech mentioned the alleged irregularities. The Wall Street Journal ends its editorial by asking "but how many smoke signals does it take to wonder if there's also fire?"

This obviously insensitive statement reveals a bias growing in the nation's newsrooms against Indian people.

The Tulsa World has on more than one occasion taken on Indian people and the dynamics created by sovereign status. They continue to say Indian people do not pay taxes or avoid them in some slick fashion. Their editorial cartoonist David Simpson draws Indian people in disparaging ways designed to fan the flames of racism. Huge hawk noses and everyone wearing blankets is how most Indians are portrayed. Most say nothing more than "ugh". Now the Tulsa World is getting into the economic development business with its friend Ron Howell.

Howell is a key player in republican circles. That of course is not a crime, but his distain for Indian people is becoming a problem. His friends on the Tulsa World editorial board are buying all of his arguments over the proposed development of Skiatook Lake. Howell was once hired by the Osage Nation to develop a plan based on the Corp of Engineers relaxing rules regarding development. Howell after being paid thousands of dollars by the tribe presented his plan. According to Howell and the Tulsa World the plan was rejected. However, then members of the council said the tribe did not vote down pursuit of the plan. Still, according to Howell and the Tulsa World, Principal Chief of the Osage Tribe Charles O. Tillman told them the tribe was not interested. None of the so-called truths the Tulsa World prints is ever verified. If they say it often enough even they will begin to believe it. The BIG LIE is an effective way of convincing the masses someone is the blame for their troubles. Hitler rallied Germany to hate Jews to make his case for national unity. In this case it is those pesky Osages and their ridiculous "Healing Rock." Granted it is something in which little is known to most Osages. Local legend says Osages used to go up there for unknown reasons. Osage and Quapaw historian Kugee Supernaw stated he doesn't know of any documented record of the rock's healing properties. Of course that is why the Tribe needs to investigate the matter. Lately there have been Osages reportedly going to the rock to pray and contemplate. It is a very unique looking rock. It looks out of place in its current location; Supernaw said to him it is a monument to the people who lived in the area. Basically, culture works this way. If the indigenous people of the area have placed value in and developed knowledge about an area, it can be said the place has some significance. What determines what is culture is the business of the Osage people. But it certainly is not the providence of a republican operative and the unabashed racial prejudice of a metropolitan newspaper.

In an editorial printed November 21st the paper totally gets it wrong and spreads what can only be called a lie in the opinion section of their paper. They then theorize that all people including Indians "realized there is nothing magic about big rocks or even monumental geographic outcrops.' They then dare to ask the question "if the healing rock was so important, why did we hear of it only after the tribe decided it wanted back in the project?

The number of assumptions raised in a paper of purported integrity makes them either the most gullible media outlet or the most racist. How presumptuous and arrogant can a publication be, to assume that they have their thumbs on the pulse of the Native American community such that they would have "heard about the rock " before it became an impediment to economic development?

The tribe was looking into the cultural importance of the area long before the project was sprung on the unsuspecting public. Howell did not do his homework and was announcing a project before every thing was determined. The grand announcement was embarrassing to Howell and his investors. Some leaders in Skiatook hungry for new development believed Howell that this plan was complete.

Howell apparently believing he was speaking for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said if the plan does not go through the Senator would hold hearings to correct Indian advantage.

The Tulsa World acknowledged that "probably half of the people in eastern Oklahoma have least a little Indian blood" in their editorial. Maybe those readers should rethink their patronage of the paper that has little respect for Oklahoma's original citizens.

Is there any bias at the Tulsa World? Negative coverage of the Skiatook lake project was on the front page of the Tulsa World 7 times. The recent oil and gas deal struck by the Osages was buried in the inside of the paper. Proceeds from the Osage project dwarf (15 times) the anticipated revenues the Skiatook Lake project would bring in. It's time to address the serious nature of the racist coverage given to the Osage Nation. Howell and his investors are certain to profit from the Osage investment, but how is the Tulsa World and their editorial board going to benefit?

Related links
"Primitive" Indian religion


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