"Oklahoma claims Will Rogers as its native son although he never actually resided in Oklahoma. A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, he was born in what is now Rogers County long before statehood and was traveling the country as an entertainer by the time Oklahoma became a state. In the century since statehood, that has become a common story: Cherokees, like other Oklahomans, leaving the state for economic reasons
My family spent a good part of my childhood in Colorado and Tennessee, finding work. Wilma Mankiller, our late principal chief, grew up in California after the federal government moved her family to northern California as part of the American Indian Relocation program. But Cherokees are connected to this area as much or more than any other group of Oklahomans. Both Wilma and I came back home, connected with our community, serving both our state and the Cherokee Nation.
A younger Cherokee citizen is trying to make the same journey: Keith Harper. Harper didn't have the opportunity to grow up in Oklahoma, because his father relocated when he was in the military, but his roots here are nearly 200 years deep. One of his great-grandfathers was a circuit judge in the Cherokee Nation in the 1800s. His wife, Shelby, grew up in Oklahoma. He spends significant time here with his cousins, aunts, uncles and other relatives scattered all over the state.
He would likely spend more time here, but for the past few years he has been leading a legal team that has exposed massive mismanagement within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in the case Cobell v. Salazar. His case was a classic example of attributes that Oklahomans hold dear: standing up for the little guy against the unwelcome intrusions of the federal government, holding the government accountable when it is wrong; fighting against long odds for what is right; and never giving up."
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Cherokee Nation Chief Chad Smith: Nomination for circuit court well deserved
(The Oklahoman 5/30)
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