We have heroes among us. Unsung heroes you might not know and may not have had the opportunity to see in action.
The one with the hat who sat with the Tar Creek Trustee Council represented one of the affected tribes is retiring from his job with that tribe's environmental department after 16 years. No longer employed by the tribe removes him from that position on that Council.
I was an Indian Counselor for Miami High School when the Tar Creek Trustee Council was born and got to hear just a bit about how they would operate right before the doors were shut tight to the public and all that has gone on inside those rooms has remained confidential, as required by law.
And I retired in 2002. All those years the trustees have been actually fighting for the public, which is us, for our rights to have the natural resources that were spoiled, taken, ruined by our legacy mining restored to the public for our enjoyment, nurturance, sustenance and because by law it can be required.
During these years I have seen state and federal authorities cringe when they saw the man wearing the Hat sitting back there on the back row, on the front row or right smack in the middle of the venue - always sitting so those in power could see him and knowing he would ask the questions that would be heard and answered for the public record.
I have copious notes of past Tar Creek Conferences and the exchanges he initiated making those in power quiver when he spoke up. He won't be missed, he will not be silenced. Heroes with that kind of courage and that studied background of this site will not go gentle into that good night, as Dylan Thomas would express.
Larry Tippit grew up knowing he would always be tied closely to the earth. Those wild plants were on his plate. The game and fish were dinner. He learned the ways of the deer from his grandfather and practiced what he had learned with his father and has passed that knowledge on to his young.
Learning to love the environment isn't taught. It is experienced learning and knowing it can provide for us gives us the responsibility to protect it and in all ways find ways to restore what has been damaged.
Ottawa County will not know how much they owe Larry Tippit because how do you put a dollar amount on that deer that is taken in season this year? It is tied to the years of walking quietly with grandfather then father, the quantity hours how do you value those?
Larry Tippit's Ottawa County ties run in his blood with both Seneca and Wyandotte coming to him from one side of the family and Cherokee on the other.
He has stayed close to the earth he protects and has for the last 16 years worked with the Peoria Tribe.
He is known for horses. The hat is actually worn by a real cowboy who raises horses.
My first understanding of the harm our mining did was talking with another man who loved his horses, George Mayer. Larry came to know and understand the need to ride this "pony"- wrestle with responsible parties and get some of the legal remedies our site deserved in the bank to provide the means to begin the tedious years it will take to restore to the public what we have lost, gone so long we didn't even have it in our memory banks to know we were missing it.
The Tar Creek Trustee Council members are called Trustees and they must as they used to say must speak for the trees as the Lorax did.
These Trustees speak for the environmental damage our environment has experienced. They know it because they have Assessed it, studied it, counted and KNOW what they say is truth. They are not speaking for the whole state of Oklahoma. They are standing up for those in our environment that have no voices, the mussels, the Mad Toms, the beaver, otter and the wood ducks who cannot speak of these losses.
The little ones that failed to hatch, to swim to fly home to nest in trees that will provide the fruit and nuts that will provide the safe nutrient needed for a healthy life.
Our environment is damaged and everything, including us is harmed by it. The tragedy of this is vast and wrong and these trustees are setting about to making some of those wrongs right. They are doing it with the money they made, legally won funding from some of the entities who messed up our lives before most of us were born, made their fortunes for these companies and danced out of here and kicked the chat dust off their boots as they left.
And then they met up with the likes of a fellow who knew how to handle wild horses and look them in the eye and tame them. And that is what he did with his teammate Trustees.
I say, "Hats off, mister, we, the little ones, we thank you."
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim