Critics: Statehood ceremony perpetuates stereotypes

For 100 years, a mock wedding ceremony between Mr. Oklahoma Territory and Miss Indian Territory has been re-enacted. The ceremony is symbolic of Oklahoma entering the union as the 46th state on Nov. 16, 1907.

In conjunction with an official centennial project, the latest re-enactment unfolds 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the historic Foreman Prairie House in Duncan.

Gail Loafman, founder and chair of The Prairie House Foundation, said she included the wedding because it is “part of our state’s history.”

“I thought that would be something that not too many people are familiar with,” she said, “so it would be something new and unusual.”

But, for some Oklahomans, whether the wedding should be re-enacted at all begs examination.

“Native Americans know the importance of celebration,” said Richard Ray Whitman, an Oklahoma City artist and member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. “(But,) renewing the vows of Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory, what does that entail? Have they (been) met? I think we’ve been in sort of an abusive marriage up to this point ” not the ideal relationship. It’s like the dominant husband, the submissive wife.

“We need to “¦ examine those things and say “¦ what’s the role of this today?”

Replaying the mock ceremony today, according to OU history professor William Savage Jr., fits into the centennial year’s dedication to “happy history.” The Oklahoma Centennial Commission did not return a request for comment by press time.

“It’s the white man who makes the judgment about who’s going to participate in the ceremony,” he said. “It was a racist ceremony in 1907, it was racist again in 1982 and if we do it again, it will still be racist ” and sexist.” “Emily Jerman

Emily Jerman

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