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A student-led movement, OU celebrates its first Indigenous Peoples' Day

Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report
A tribal flag procession and drumming begins OU's Indigenous Peoples' Day celebrations.
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NORMAN, Okla. – Members of The University of Oklahoma and the community gathered on campus in pride and celebration on a comfortably cool and windy early Monday morning. Smiles and laughter filled the south oval as nearly 100 individuals began the processional towards the Bizzell Memorial Library in recognition of OU’s first ever Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“This day is not a day that we think those bad feelings towards that man [Christopher Columbus] that came a long time ago, today’s not a day that we harbor those ill wills,” Corey Still said in the welcoming blessing. “Today’s a day that we remember and today’s a day that we also prove how resilient we as Indigenous People are.”

Corey Still gives the welcoming blessing. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)

On Oct. 5, OU President David Boren issued a proclamation recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day throughout the university. He welcomed everyone at Monday’s celebration with a prideful demeanor.

Boren expressed that when looking back through history “we have so many things for which we should thank the Native peoples” such as art, land and life.

“Native peoples have woven such a rich part of the fabric that makes our state unique and I think gives us reason to provide leadership to the rest of the country in these areas,” he said.

Not only is OU the first university in the state to pass this resolution “it originated with our students and that’s why it’s such an important statement for our entire community,” Boren said, still full of pride.

President David Boren speaks to the audience. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)

On Sept. 29, OU’s Student Government Association voted in favor, 28-5, of recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Indigenize OU is a group of Native students seeking justice for their community through education and actions to promote the well-being of Indigenous Peoples, according to their Facebook page, and they were the ones who brought this topic to the SGA and further onto Boren.

Along with recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Boren has been in talks with Indigenize OU members and other Native peoples to bring about more changes to the university.

Boren has appointed an Intertribal Liaison, Mark Wilson, who will carry communications back and forth between tribal leaders and the university and to support all students.  

Also, in December, Boren will bring to the Board of Regents the request of elevating the Native American Study Program to the Native American Study Department within the College of Arts and Sciences. Finally, the university will be establishing a new center for tribal nations.

Sarah Adams-Cornell speaks to the audience. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)

Native American activist and a member of the Choctaw Nation, Sarah Adams-Cornell, was also present at Monday’s celebration.

“I must impress upon you the precedence you have set at OU,” she said to the audience. “Your leadership and fortitude to lead the state of Oklahoma into a new era of turning from Columbus Day and honoring our thriving original people is remarkable.

“These efforts made possible by many of your student leaders at OU sends a very clear message to our state and nation. We will not celebrate a man who exemplifies genocide but rather move towards something better – telling truthful histories, celebrate a thriving Indigenous People and culture that contributes greatly to our state and nation.”

The south oval of OU set up for celebrations. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)

The celebrations continue throughout the evening. For a full listing, click here.

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Sarah Hussain

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Virginia native, Sarah Hussain, has...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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