Melissa Goodblanket – Seeking justice for her son who was shot 7 times by law officers
Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin has said that she values the relationship that she has with the indigenous people of Oklahoma. However, her actions tell a different story. Time and time again, Mary Fallin has failed to acknowledge the issues that are important to the native citizens that she was ELECTED to represent.
OKLAHOMA CITY— On September 26th, 2014, the family of Mah-Hi-Vist (Redbird) Goodblanket, an 18-year-old Cheyenne Arapaho man who was unjustly shot by Custer County Sheriff’s deputies, hosted a rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol to protest the widespread epidemic of Police Brutality that is devastating families and communities across our state and across our nation. A meeting had also been scheduled with Fallin’s general counsel to allow the Goodblanket family and members of the organization, S.P.I.R.I.T., to discuss their concerns, but Fallin’s office canceled the day before the event.
It was a powerful gathering of speakers and supporters from all walks of life. Each one wanting to see justice for the Goodblanket family and to see a change in the “Shoot First, Justify it Later” approach to law enforcement that has allowed for the countless murders of innocent civilians at the hands of the police. Throughout the day, we heard from David Hill (OK A.I.M), Ida Hoffman, Stefano Warner, Tushka Hill, Dave Ortiz (Central Texas A.I.M), Alecia Onzahwah (Idle No More), Alice WhiteCloud (TICAR), Brady Henderson (Oklahoma ACLU), Anthony Douglas (Oklahoma Chapter, NAACP), Johnnie Jae (EONM/Native Max Magazine), Grayson English (OU Students for Stateless Society), Red Eagle (Jesse Robbins, OU Student/Debate Team), members of the group Anonymous and many others.
But no voice was more powerful or inspiring than that of Melissa Goodblanket as she shared her recollections of the night Mah-Hi-Vist was shot and her vision to see positive changes made to law enforcement policies so that what happened to her Redbird, doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Many powerful words were shared and those words were heard, but not by Governor Mary Fallin or her administration. The meeting that she had canceled was important not just for the Goodblanket family but for all Oklahoman citizens. It was the second time that her office had canceled a meeting to have these issues addressed. The excuse given to Brenda Golden this time was that “something had come up”.
Just after Brenda Golden spoke, it was discovered that Mary Fallin was actually just around the corner promoting her “Get Fit” Challenge. Protesters that had gone over to see what was going on were quickly ushered away because they did not have a permit to be on that side of the building.
It speaks volumes that while a native mother was just steps away, pleading for justice and an end to racism in law enforcement, Governor Fallin was making the conscious decision to ignore her pleas. While the media may have been blinded by the cute kids, the NBA Star (Kevin Durant) and her ridiculous dancing to notice her indifference to the very serious issue of police brutality and the recent murders and rapes of Oklahoma citizens at the hands of the police, it did not escape the notice of the protesters and the native community.
“Although not surprising, it’s disappointing that once again Mary Fallin has avoided having a dialogue with traditional, conscious Natives. I would hope if Kevin Durant was aware of our rally that he would do more than strap on the newest N7’s and reciprocate the support that Native communities shower him with,” says Jesse Robbins (OU Student/Debate Team member), who spoke and performed at the rally for the Goodblanket family.
“This is why its important to keep up the resistance of the continual onslaught of Indigenous integrity and bodies orchestrated by institutions manifested through colonization and slavery. Institutions that legally sanction murder, Institutions like the Oklahoma police departments and the Government that support them.I’m proud of the resistance shown in front of the steps of the capitol and hope the number of Natives at these rallies continue to grow.”
Summer Wesley, an Oklahoma Tribal Law Attorney said: “Silence speaks volumes. Governor Fallin’s choice to campaign in such close proximity, without so much as acknowledging the very real and pressing concerns of her constituents, sends the message that the issue holds no importance to her. Indian Country had long felt that she is no ally, but this is a bigger issue. Police brutality affects all communities and is a major concern in Oklahoma, given numerous recent events. Yet, yesterday’s event didn’t even rate an insincere, political “I’ll do whatever I can” from our governor; it was ignored completely, as if the lives lost don’t matter.
On May 19th of this year, Jennie Stockle, human rights activist and executive board member of EONM, protested and petitioned for Fallin to support the reinstatement of the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission, to appoint a Secretary of Native American Affairs in her cabinet and to support the creation of a better Native American History and Culture Curriculum. She presented the Fallin Administration with a 90 page petition holding 8,000 signatures of support.
When she heard that Fallin’s office had canceled a meeting with the Goodblanket family and learned that protesters had been shooed away from the area where she was doing her “Get Fit Challenge” festivities, this is what she had to say:
“Governor Mary Fallin only likes to showcase how she feels about Native Americans when she can get something out of it. I guess she hasn’t figured out that we have memories longer than yesterday. She elbows her way into the Choctaw holiday and alienates most Choctaw from coming so she can get public relations photos. Then, when there are rallies about anti-racism & the killing of an innocent Cheyenne-Arapaho teen at the capitol, she not only avoids talking to the indigenous people a few feet away, but has other people run them off of “her side” of the capitol building! Everyone knows what she is about when it comes to her feelings about Native. Look no further than her daughter for proof. Do Oklahomans really need a person like that in office, who can’t act like the good neighbor they pretend to be?”
That’s a very good question. One that our native voters need to be asking themselves when they head to the polls.
Johnnie Jae is of the Jiwere-Nutachi and Chahta tribes of Oklahoma. The Executive Managing Partner of Native Max Magazine. Executive Board Member of Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry and the Native American Journalists Association.