Friday, August 03, 2007

Those Who Tell the Truth Will Often Pay A Price

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,



Rex Ray said...

Good gracious, Wade,
Are you telling me I have to live 23 more years? Ha

Thanks for the good post. It’s nice to hear that sometimes the ‘good guy’ wins.

Her life really shows that sometimes the ‘powers that be’ can’t handle truth.

I like your quote of ‘A Few Good Men’.
Rex Ray
Bonham, Texas

Paul/Mary Burleson said...

Interestingly, one of your nieces and our granddaughter, attends Angie Debo Elementary School in Edmond. I always wondered who Angie Debo was and intended to "Google" her name and find out, but never did. Now I know. Thanks for the info.

Her story, her life, and her name is now embedded in history even better than in the printed word, because think how many grade-school children will say for the rest of their lives where they attended grade school and her name will be said and remembered countless times. Ironic: She was barred from teaching in some OK schools and now an OK school bears her name! Great story. Great life principles. Thanks for posting this.

Unknown said...


Not everyone who tells the truth is honored by the establishment. Sometimes the establishment wins and silences dissent - but the establishment is worse off for having done so.

The question for truth tellers is not whether or not they can sustain until they are finally recognized, but do they love the truth enough to persevere regardless of the outcome.

12 Witnesses

Paul/Mary Burleson said...

Oops. And I'm an editor with a publishing comment? Yikes! My handsome feller said I needed to correct my English and the verb "is" should be "are" in the first sentence of the second paragraph of my previous post. Well... Actually, it could be read as one subject with three parts and if you take it as a single entry, "is" is okay. But, I just say that to argue. He's right. It should be "are." Copyedited by my own mate. I stand corrected.

Debbie Kaufman said...

I shouldn't be posting this early, my brain doesn't work. :)

I agree strongly with what you have said Art.

Mary: I'm sure Paul still thinks of you as perfection. :) Also, I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one to make that mistake at times. I often have to revert to the old method of silently replacing it with he is, they are etc and still miss it. :)

Rick Boyne said...

Telling the truth with a good ending works in a democracy, but the same sort of action in, say, China, wins you a trip to the "country-side" (grave) where you are never heard from again.

In Africa, you would not just be ignored, you'd be beaten and possibly killed. In the middle-East, dissent would win you a trip to eternity.

In America, you are simply ignored, put on a shelf, conveniently black-listed. What a privilege to be able to tell the truth and live!

Anonymous said...

mary, you can use any english you want cuz i know you're a good momma, and mommas are sposed to do what they want, cuz mommas rule, and you gotta good hubby and a good kiddo here in enid

rick talley

Anonymous said...

Making sure that "truth is really truth" rather than our own spin or desire is the key...many elevate their thoughts, desire and spin to "truth".

Our goal and desire must simply be that we "stay faithful to Him until the end"...

Chuck Bryce said...


Drove through your great state yesterday. I read this and we found all the places on the map: where she lived and taught and where Enid is, the place where the rebellious Pastor?Trustee/Blogger lives. :>)


Tim Dahl said...

I've been thinking about the "powers that be." I'm sure that there were many Christians in the Oklahoma government at that time. I'm sure that there were some that were upset with what she said. It makes me think that even the institutions that run our land are inherently broken. I will never again associate any institution, political or otherwise, as being truly Christian. Every institution is fallen.


Bob Cleveland said...

I'm not sure any of man's establishments ever really win. At least in the sense that I'm sure there will not be any establishments in heaven.

Believers will be held accountable for how they treated people, and how what they ran treated people; not how they ran establishments, IMO.

CB Scott said...

This is a good post and very true. Yet, the truth it teaches does make one sigh with a little sadness, if you know what I mean.


Pamela said...

I'm a transplant to OK. I came here in 1977 to attend ORU. To my horror a few years after graduation I first heard about the Tulsa Race Riots. Sad to say many still deny that it ever happened. What horrified me was the fact that the libraries cut out any articles reporting this from the papers. This was my first example of how public libraries suppress the news.

One must realize that telling the truth in many cases will cost you dearly. Thank God He has our back when we stand up for right. At least you can sleep at night knowing you did the right thing.

A great piece. Sad to say she waited 40+ years to be recognized.

Bennett Willis said...

I'll put this down here out of the way. I think that you need to update the Boyd Luter link.
Bennett Willis