Not far from where I live in Enid, Oklahoma is a little town called Marshall. Buried in the Marshall North Cemetary is a nationally acclaimed Oklahoma author and historian named Angie Debo (pronounced Da Bo'). Although Angie died in 1988 at the age of 98, and although she received many prestigious awards from across the nation during her lifetime, the state of Oklahoma did not recognize her achievements until one month before she died.
It seems Angie got cross ways with our state and federal authorities in 1940. Angie had the nerve to tell the truth about the theft of Indian lands in Indian territory by our federal government. These lands now form the state we call Oklahoma. Angie's controversial book, entitled Still the Waters Run, portrays a series of of dozens of broken promises and contracts that eventually led to the Indians losing land that had been promised to them as a perpetual homeland. Angie, a University of Chicago graduate and a thorough historian, carefully researched her book, but state officials refused to allow it to be published in Oklahoma. In 1940 the book was published by Princeton University Press.
According to University of Oklahoma historian David Dary, the publication of 'Still the Waters Run' cost Angie Debo any teaching position in Oklahoma's universities. Though Angie would eventually write nine books and be granted the prestigious Award of Scholarly Distinction, she was forced to return to the high school classroom in rural Oklahoma. From Marshall, Oklahoma, Angie would often provide reviews for the New York Times. She was unwelcome and under appreciated in her own state of Oklahoma and admired by others outside the state -- all because she had the audacity to tell the truth about how we became a state.
Angie Debo's story reminds me of these three lines from 'A Few Good Men.'
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can't handle the truth!
One month before Angie died at 98 in February of 1988, Oklahoma Governor Henry Bellmon traveled to Marshall, Oklahoma to officially recognize and award Angie Debo for her life's contributions and work. Angie's portait now hangs in the Oklahoma State Capital Rotunda next to humorist Will Rogers. Her last book 'Gerimono: The Man, His Time, His Place' was written when she was 83 and won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.
But Angie is most remembered for her persistence in uncovering and revealing the truth. Her book 'The Road to Disappearance: A History of the Creek Indians' was the basis for a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in which important land rights for the Indians were recognized. Angie was loved by the little, overlooked people of our state, and hated by the establishment.
There are three things Angie Debo's story confirms for those of us interested in the twists and turns of persistence in telling the truth.
(1). Those who tell the truth will often pay a price extracted by the establishment.
(2). Persistent truth-telling will eventually lead to significant, landmark changes.
(3). In the end, the establishment will be so transformed by the necessary changes produced by truth-telling that the truth-teller will eventually be recognized and honored by the establishment.
So . . .
May those who write blogs persist in writing and upholding the truth - regardless of the consequences. In the end, truth will prevail and the truth-teller will be honored - either here or the here-after.
In His Grace,