After attending a few weddings and visiting family in California last week, we are back on the road. Last night we landed in Oklahoma, a state in which John Kerry failed to win one county!
Oklahoma was the only state in the country limited to just two candidates for President in November 2004: George W. Bush and John Kerry. On election day, 49 states had Libertarian nominee Michael Badnarik on the ballot; 36 states had Independent/Reform candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot; 37 states had Constitution Party nominee Michael Peroutka on the ballot; 28 states had Green Party nomineee David Cobb on the ballot; and 15 states had Socialist Workers Party nominee Roger Calero on the ballot. So why doesn't Oklahoma have more choices? Activists point to election law, which requires 51,781 signatures to secure full party ballot access and 37,027 signatures to place a President on the ballot. The Green, Libertarian and Constitution Parties of Oklahoma have joined forces to fight for ballot access reform and support legislation that would lower the number of signatures necessary for an unrecognized party to get on the ballot. Four months ago, Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform were told the bill will not be heard; they say they received no explanation for the decision.
I haven't seen much of Oklahoma yet, as I've been holed up in the hotel all day writing and doing research. As we drove from the airport to our hotel last night, I was surprised to see the words "Native America" on Oklahoma's license plates. Legislation was passed for the plates in 1993.
Even more interesting, Native Oklahomans can order license plates bearing the name of their tribes.
The Oklahoma state flag honors more than 60 groups of Native Americans and their ancestors. Oklahoma adopted its first state flag in 1911. The red background of the flag referred to the Native American population, and its central white-and-blue star and two numbers 46 represented Oklahoma's admission to the Union as the 46th state. Some citizens, notably the adjutant general of the state, opposed that flag after World War I because of its resemblance to communist banners.
A new flag was adopted on April 2, 1925. It consisted of a blue field bearing the traditional bison-hide shield of the Osage Indians. Louise Funk Fluke developed the flag based on a suggestion made by Joseph Thoburn of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The blue background of Fluke's design symbolized loyalty and devotion, and the shield suggested the defense of the state. The shield bore small crosses, which stood for stars (as is common in Native American art), and the olive branch and calumet were included as emblems of peace for whites and Native Americans, respectively.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
A few additional facts about Oklahoma:
*The name "Oklahoma" comes from the Choctaw words: "okla" means people and "humma" means red, so the state's name means "red people."
*Choctaw, the oldest chartered town in Oklahoma, gained status in 1893.
*After the Civil War, many of the lands taken away from the Five Civilized Tribes in Oklahoma Territory were turned over to tribes from the West. As non-Indian expansion pressed westward and the railroads built networks of tracks, the federal government decided to relocate the western Indians, whose homes stood in the way of "progress."
*On November, 16, 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state. Statehood had become a sure thing, in part due to a discovery which made Oklahoma the "place to go to strike it rich" -- oil. People came from all parts of the world to seek their fortunes in Oklahoma's teeming oil fields. Cities like Tulsa, Ponca City, Bartlesville, and Oklahoma City flourished.
*Oklahoma ranks second to California as the state with the largest Native American population.
*According to 1990 U.S. census data, Oklahoma's population is 3,258,000. Of those, 82.1 percent are white, 8 percent American Indian, 7.4 percent African American, 2.7 percent Hispanic and 1.1 percent Asian.
*In 1911, the Oklahoma Federation of Negro Women's Club protested lynching, in 1914 they endorsed women's suffrage, and in 1957 they promoted the hiring of African American teachers in integrated schools.
*On April 22, 1889, the first day homesteading was permitted, 50,000 people swarmed into the area. Those who tried to beat the noon starting gun were called Sooners. Hence the state's nickname.
*33 percent of Oklahoman adults are living in poverty.
*In 2000, 58 out of every 1,000 Oklahoman teens were pregnant, compared with 43 out of every 1,000 nationwide.
*Number of reported abortions in 2001: 7,038
*This spring, Oklahoma legislators passed a resolution that would ban books on gay families from the children's sections of public libraries.
*The Log Cabin Republicans are in the process of opening a chapter in Oklahoma.
Sources: 50states.com, Oklahoma State government, Urban Institute and Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Over the next months, we'll bring you stories about these issues and more.
Let me know if you have any contacts or know of any interesting organizations in Oklahoma.
Thanks for reading and spreading the word!