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Indigenous Peoples' Day OKC organizers speak out

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OKLAHOMA CITY – A resolution, seeking to establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Oklahoma City, came before City Council Sept. 29, offering an unprecedented opportunity was offered, to demonstrate to the Indigenous community that the city desires to join together to work toward building and accomplishing greater things than previously imagined.

Compelling statements were made, by community members, in support of the proposal. Passionate support was shown by some members of Council, such as Councilman White’s statements that “this is simply a matter of whether you want to do the right thing. . . . We have perverted history. I just think it’s wrong to postpone justice just because you aren’t ready, yet.” When it came to a vote, however, four Council members, Cornett, Greiner, McAtee, and Stonecipher, made exactly that choice. The resolution fell on a 4-4 vote.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day OKC wants to express our gratitude to Councilmen Shadid, White, Greenwell, and Pettis for recognizing the importance of this demonstration of reconciliation and willingness to work together with the Indigenous community, to make our city even greater.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution will be on the Oklahoma City Council’s agenda, again, October 13th. Constituents will have to wait until then to know if Councilwoman Salyer supports this step towards unity between the larger community and the Indigenous population, which comprised upwards of 20% of the city’s population, according to census reports.

It is notable that, despite Councilman Stonecipher’s assertion that the measure is “divisive”, every person who addressed Council supported the resolution. No member of the public felt strongly enough against it to stand before Council and express opposition. Therefore, it is difficult to assess this issue as controversial.

Mayor Cornett briefed the room on the history of Columbus Day and that its roots were found in establishing a holiday to afford inclusivity to a disenfranchised and marginalized population, Italian Americans. The irony, however, seemed to escape him, as that recognition and inclusivity is the underlying intent of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

At its heart, this issue is not about having a “chip on your shoulder” as was suggested by one Council member. It is about recognizing that, despite a turbulent history, Indigenous Peoples’ have contributed tremendously to building this city, state, and nation into its current greatness; and, that now is the time to make a conscious choice to join together to build something even stronger.

Councilman McAtee rightfully pointed out that Natives have successful enterprises and that Red Earth contributes greatly to the city. Many Native Nations have cultural festivals and museums, and none of the Council members seem to oppose that, for which we are grateful. However, Indigenous Peoples’ Day isn’t about cultural preservation. It’s about joining together, weaving Native citizens into the tapestry of the city rather than having them continue to feel as if they exist on the fringe, as so many currently do. The opportunity is being set forth to actively unify, rather than merely existing alongside one another.

The Native leaders behind #ipdOKC respectfully requests that the City Council listen to what the Indigenous community feels is best for us, before projecting their own ideas onto us. We ask that members of the public contact council members, particularly those who opposed or did not vote, to let them know how important it is that they actively demonstrate the willingness to join with the Indigenous community.

For continued updates on Indigenous Peoples’ Day OKC, go to their Facebook page:

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