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LAND’S END: Indigenous activists work with Edmond educators to end Land Run reenactments

Photo courtesy of Live Indigenous OK
Live Indigenous OK members teach elementary school children how the Land Run affected native Americans.
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EDMOND, Okla.—While many consider the Land Run of 1889 to be an indelible part of Oklahoma history, for numerous years Indigenous activists have been asking for the state to tell the whole story of the much mythologized land grab, the part that tends to leave out the Native Americans who were forced off the land against their will.

Believing that schools teaching inaccurate history “does a disservice to all students, and, by extension, society as a whole,” various parents of Edmond elementary school students, along with Live Indigenous OK, have been meeting with principals and other educators about the Land Run issue and have taken, according to Live Indigenous OK member Summer Wesley, a “few steps forward” on the matter.

“It can be harmful to Native students to see a celebration and a replaying of the genocide and marginalization of their people,” Wesley said. “This is something that our children live with everyday—they don’t need to see the people they’re supposed to respect, the people they’re supposed to learn from, their educators, not only celebrating this event but dismissing their humanity as well.”

Even though two-thirds of elementary schools in Edmond still have Land Run reenactment events, when parents and Live Indigenous OK met with the principal of Pioneer Elementary, once their concerns were voiced and made public, the school canceled any further activities.

While the district itself has yet to take a similar stand and make this policy, many more Edmond elementary schools, including Northern Hills, are independently coming around to the historical truth about these reenactments, also expressing a desire to “take steps towards formulating a new, more accurate curriculum, on this matter.”

“I do not know what the curriculum would look like that will replace this, so I’m hesitant to call it a victory just yet, but canceling the Land Run is progress,” Wesley said. “We’re not asking to eliminate learning about the Land Run or the formation of statehood; we’re asking for a complete history and accurate representation of Indigenous peoples.”

While dialog on this will continue, Wesley said that even though a few of the principals and administrators were “very enthusiastic” about the proposed changes—one principal reportedly said “quite forcefully” that “there’s no reason that anyone, at any school, should be having these anymore”—many others were still “quite hesitant” about giving up what has become a beloved Oklahoma tradition in many schools around the state.

“We try to hit home the point that there is no way to have a “respectful” reenactment,” Wesley said. “You cannot respectfully celebrate the marginalization of a people. It’s just not mutually exclusive. So we don’t know what that’s going to look like, but we have agreed to an ongoing dialog should they actually follow through with their stated intent to create a new curriculum as Oklahoma City schools have done and piloted for the past two years. We’re seeing baby steps happen.”

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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