TAHLEQUAH — Editor, Daily Press:
When I was a child growing up in Tahlequah, the Indian children were looked down on. The “White” kids made fun of their names and accents. My family added an “e” to “Wolf,” trying to appear English. My own father, himself a descendant of a Cherokee chief named Blackcoat, called them derogatory names. It wasn’t the “in” thing to be a Native American.
I had no idea there was an Indian hospital in Tahlequah, as I didn’t have the required degree of Indian blood. Then the quantum was lowered, and anyone who had a drop of Cherokee blood could get a card and utilize the free health care. Suddenly, everyone wanted to be an Indian – including me.
I became interested in my Cherokee heritage and began to spend time in libraries, researching my ancestry and attending seminars and presentations by scholars who had studied the history and background of my tribe. It was OK; I could be proud of being a Cherokee.
Until today, when my 2-1/2-year-old great-granddaughter was denied contract health because she lives in a county that must be approved by Claremore Indian Hospital, where 50 percent of requests are denied. Her mother was told she could appeal this decision, but the process would probably take three months, and my grandbaby can’t wait that long.
When the casinos first came in, I was elated, for two reasons: because I liked to play slots and because I believed they would improve the lives of Cherokee tribal members. I don’t believe they have.
If there is no money for contract health, where is it going? To build even more casinos, apparently, which doesn’t seem to be benefiting Cherokee people.
The wheel has come full circle. Once again, I am ashamed of being a Cherokee.
Becky Wolfe Littlejohn