Enoch Kelly Haney, the former Seminole Nation Chief who served in the state legislature, ran for governor and had his art exhibited around the world, including on top of the Oklahoma State Capitol, died Saturday. He was 81.
Haney, a Seminole County native and most recently a Norman resident, served in both the state house and Senate for 22 years, including chairing the Senate Credit Committee. He was the first full-blooded Native American to serve in the legislature, according to the Seminole Nation, which elected him leader in 2005.
“An inspiration to many, an accomplished (artist), his work with the state and later as Chief highlighted his career. But his greatest achievement is that of the family,” said Brian Palmer, assistant chief of the Seminole Nation, in a statement. statement on Saturday, which confirmed Haney’s death.
In 2002, Haney ran for governor in the Democratic primary, but was defeated by former governor Brad Henry.
Haney was also an accomplished painter and sculptor who created the “The Guardian” statue that sits atop the Capitol dome.
“The towering statue exemplifies the courage of Oklahomans and their ability to overcome the most horrific catastrophes, such as the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City,” states Haney’s Arts Council profile. “The Guardian reminds us that just below him, in the halls of our grand Capitol, the real Guardians of Oklahoma, our elected officials and others, work every day to improve this already beautiful state.”
In an interview in 2014, as he prepared a new exhibition of his art, Haney spoke about how his art was rooted in his heritage.
“My grandfather and father were great storytellers, so I have the ability to tell stories, about indigenous people and their histories, and so on. So I guess in a way I’m still the keeper of the traditions,” Haney said.
Haney said his mother remembered that he started drawing and sculpting with clay when he was 2 years old.
“When I was six, I used red clay from our front yard to make Abraham Lincoln’s head,” Haney said. “I started studying Indian art with Dr. Dick West at Bacone College in Muskogee. I attended the University of Arizona and then graduated from Oklahoma City University School of Art in 1965. It was at OCU that I developed style and learned about realistic painting and surrealism.”
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