Oklahoma’s Enoch Kelly Haney, former Seminole chief, state senator, and artist, has died at age 81

A man who achieved legendary status in Oklahoma, former state senator and Seminole Nation Chief Enoch Kelly Haney, passed away this weekend at the age of 81, local media outlet KFOR reported.

In addition to leading the Seminole Nation and serving as a state politician, Haney had also served in the Oklahoma National Guard and was an award-winning artist and prominent businessman.

Politician, artist, and businessman

“With a heavy heart, the Seminole Nation woke to the news of the passing of Chief Kelly Haney,” Seminole Nation Assistant Chief Brian Palmer said in a statement posted to the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma’s Facebook page.

“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 family. Keep his family in prayer and may they find comfort in knowing the Seminole Nation and Indian Country mourns his loss,” Palmer added.

According to his profile page with the Oklahoma Senate, Haney’s political service to the state in both the House and Senate was but a small part of his overall legacy.

Haney had hosted and produced a weekly television program and served as a consultant and narrator for a Discovery Channel series on the Seminole Nation. He was also renowned as a “Master Artist” and operated his own art gallery and mail order business.

The “Guardian” of Oklahoma

KFOR reported that Haney had been born in 1940 in Seminole, Oklahoma, to a full-blooded Seminole father and Creek mother, who eventually carried on the legacy of his grandfather by serving as chief of the Seminole Nation.

It is arguably Haney’s artwork that he will be most remembered for, according to the Oklahoma Arts Council, particularly the massive bronze “Guardian” statue he created that now stands atop the Oklahoma Capitol building and serves as an homage to the heritage of Native Americans and their displacement at the hands of the U.S. government in the 1800s.

The proud Native American figure stands 17 feet tall, holds a staff that measures 22 feet in length, and weighs more than 4,000 pounds. It is matched by a slightly smaller nine-foot replica that stands inside as a greeting to all who enter the Capitol building.

The massive “Guardian” was modeled after members of Haney’s own family and was erected in 2002 after just 10 months of work to put together the 50 separate sections it is comprised of.

A “modern-day renaissance man”

The Oklahoma Arts Council lauded Haney as a “modern-day renaissance man” who had been honored with numerous awards for his incredible artistry, including being designated in 1975 as the “Master Artist of the Five Civilized Tribes.”

Haney will undoubtedly be missed by his family and friends and tribe, but his legacy and legend will certainly live on and he will long be remembered in the state of Oklahoma and beyond.

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