OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt recommended three Native Americans and two Black Oklahomans as national heroes who should be considered for inclusion in a new National Garden of American Heroes.
The first-term Republican governor made the suggestions in a letter sent to the Trump administration this month. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on rebuilding public monuments and asked governors for their input on who should be included and where such a monument might be located.
Among Stitt’s recommendations were former Cherokee Nation leader Wilma Mankiller, early 1900s humorist Will Rogers, both citizens of the Cherokee Nation, and Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe, a Sac and Fox/Pottawatomie citizen. He also suggested John Hope Franklin, the grandson of a freed Chickasaw Nation slave and a native Tulsan; Ada Louis Sipuel Fisher, who fought to become the first Black student at the University of Oklahoma College of Law; and aviator Wiley Post.
“The Oklahomans on this list embody the history, spirit, resiliency and strength of our state and people,” Stitt said. “They each left a legacy that has far extended past state lines and impacted our world for the better.”
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said he was unaware but pleased that Stitt recommended two members of his tribe for consideration.
“They’re Cherokee citizens, but in many ways they belong to the world in terms of the efforts they’ve put forth in their careers,” Hoskin said of Mankiller and Rogers. “The fact that they’re Cherokee, of course, is very important to me, and it reflects an effort to add some diversity to those sort of public monuments. I think that’s a wonderful thing.”
Stitt has spent more than a year locked in a messy legal dispute with tribal leaders in Oklahoma over how much the tribes pay the state for the right to operate casinos. The feud has strained relations between several tribes and the governor’s office, but Hoskin remained optimistic about the relationship moving forward.
“I think the governor’s actions have caused and will cause some enduring harm between the governor’s office and the Cherokee Nation, but it’s nothing that can’t be repaired,” Hoskin said. “And it’s nothing that can’t be repaired within Gov. Stitt’s remaining time in office.”
Stitt also recommended two possible locations in Oklahoma for the Trump administration to consider for the garden: Lake Thunderbird State Park in Norman and Lake Keystone, just west of Tulsa.