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StoryCorps in Oklahoma: College - "I'd Rather Do It Myself" (ENCORE) (Nov 25, 2011)

Earlier this year Bill Anoatubby was officially re-elected as the Governor of the Chickasaw Nation for a 7th term when no challengers filed to run against him.  Gov. Anoatubby visited the StoryCorps mobile recording booth in November with his friend Enoch Kelly Haney.  Haney led the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma from 2005 to 2009, and also served in the Oklahoma legislature for more than two decades.  These two men have profoundly impacted both state and tribal politics, but when they sat down together, they spoke of a shared experience of returning college scholarships to make their own way in life.

Bill Anoatubby: I received one year of Bureau of Indian Affairs assistance, and I thought, “I’d rather do it myself.” I felt like I’d feel better about it, and I did.

Kelly Haney: I had a similar experience. And I was going to a private school, Oklahoma City University. Back then, the tuition was exceptionally high. Probably as high then as it is today for most state colleges. But I was going to school on a ministerial scholarship, and I decided “I don’t think I’ll go into this.” So I gave the scholarship back. And for a year, I struggled. I had a wife, and at the time two children, and thought I’d apply for a scholarship from the BIA. They gave me a letter saying “You’ve got the scholarship.” I thought about it, and thought, “You know, I don’t think I ought to take it.” I wrote them a nice letter back, I said “Thank you for the scholarship, but give it to somebody who needs it.” And I’m thinking, years later, “No one needed it more than me!” (Laughs). But it was just what my father taught me to do, take care of yourself.

BA: If you can, take care of yourself.

KH: Yeah.

BA: I had a circumstance where, actually, when I was in high school, I wanted to go college, but there seemed to be so many barriers. Money being the main one. So I resigned myself to taking a job after high school. However, there was this Bureau of Indian Affairs education representative that came to visit Tishomingo High School, and gathered Indian students together and made a lot of promises. It was inspiring. You had an opening, there was a door you could go through if you wanted to.

I was in the National Guard, and after graduation from high school I needed to go active duty. I applied for the scholarship, and while I was on active duty, I called my mom one evening. She said, ‘Billy, you got a letter from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I haven’t opened it, would you like me to open it?’ So she opened it up and read it to me. They said ‘Sorry, we don’t have any money.’ And so right then, at that moment, I decided ‘I’m going to do it myself.’ And so on my private pay from the military, I sent home half every month so when I got back I’d have enough money to pay my tuition and books. So I did that. I had the money, and enrolled in Murray College and bought my books. A week after I started classes, I got a letter from the BIA that said ‘Greetings. You’ve been awarded a BIA Scholarship to go to East Central University.’ And I thought about that, and I thought ‘Well, you know, I’m doing this on my own, and I’d like to go to East Central. That’s where a lot of my friends were going, but I’m enrolled, I’m going to class, I think I ought to stay where I am.’ So I wrote them a nice letter back, and said ‘Thank you, but no thank you’ just as you did.

Produced for KGOU by Brian Hardzinski, with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording and collecting stories of everyday people. The Senior Producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

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