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City Council told "time is now" to implement Indigenous Peoples' Day

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
A city employee explains to Native American activist Sarah Adams-Cornell (right) about his mistake in not alerting the city council about their interest in addressing Indigenous Peoples' Day at Tuesday's meeting.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Supporters of indigenous people of the Americas returned to the City Council of Oklahoma City chambers on Tuesday, nearly a year after an unsuccessful attempt to convince Mayor Mick Cornett and the body to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

One at a time, citizens stood before the council urging them to recognize “the time is now” for the second Monday in October to be recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, replacing the controversial Columbus Day holiday, which is recognized at the federal level.

The city council will vote on the matter on Sept. 27.

And while last year’s resolution was not approved, cities around the nation, including Seattle, have approved resolutions honoring indigenous people, their history, and their contributions to their communities.

Sarah Adams-Cornell, an Oklahoma City-based human rights activist and member of the Choctaw Nation, highlighted the direction.

“We are focusing more on the positive and what it will bring to our city.”

In correlation with the proposed day of honor, Adams-Cornell said organizers are planning an Indigenous Peoples’ Day Parade. The parade is intended as a celebration of the many diverse cultures of the city and state. The parade would not only honor indigenous people, but also could potentially bring more tourism and revenue to the city.

“We are looking to make it the number one Indigenous Peoples’ Day Parade in the nation,” she said.

In Oklahoma, Indigenous Peoples' Day is recognized by the city of Anadarko and the University of Oklahoma, among others, activists noted.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett listens to Sarah Adams-Cornell discuss an Indigenous Peoples' Day proposal. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

Other organizations have joined in support of IPD, including Black Lives Matter Oklahoma, OKC Pride, and the OKC Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Coalition.

Executive Director of Black Lives Matter Oklahoma, the Rev. T Sheri Dickerson, spoke on behalf of these organizations during the city council meeting.

“It would be offensive to me for us to not continue to rally and fight for this,” Dickerson said. “It’s really senseless that it has not been something that is put in place long ago.”

Several citizens were cut off before their chance to address the council because of an accidental misplacement of their required registration slips. Lights were turned off and councilmembers quickly evacuated the chambers to enter an executive session.

However, Councilman Ed Shadid, Ward 2, realized something was wrong as confused audience members began to protest being denied their right to speak. Shadid assured the citizens would be heard after the executive session was finished.

More than 15 minutes later the council reemerged from executive session. Mayor Cornett hastily placed the blame on the citizens, who had waited for more than three hours for their chance to speak, although a city employee had already admitted fault and offered an apology to the citizens while the council was in executive session.

IPD supporters vowed they would continue in their efforts to officially recognize and honor indigenous people.

Adams-Cornell said she encourages citizens to get involved on social media and also by contacting their councilmembers to ask them to support the resolution with a “yes” vote on Sept. 27.

The city council will meet at 8:30 a.m. at the City Municipal Building, 200 N. Walker.

Once again, eyes will be on Councilwoman Meg Salyer, Ward 6. Last September it was Salyer’s vote that tipped the tied vote to five-four, causing it to fail.

Residents can find out what city council member represents their ward by looking at the ward map on the city council’s website.

To contact the mayor and members of the city council, go to: Mayor Mick Cornett by email at mayor@okc.gov, James Greiner, Ward 1, ward1@okc.gov, Ed Shadid, Ward 2, ward2@okc.gov, Larry McAtee, Ward 3, ward3@okc.gov; Pete White, Ward 4, ward4@okc.gov; David Greenwell, Ward 5, ward5@okc.gov; Meg Salyer, Ward 6, ward6@okc.gov; John A. Pettis Jr., Ward 7, ward7@okc.gov; and Mark K. Stonecipher, Ward 8, ward8@okc.gov.

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E.I. Hillin

Elizabeth Ivy Hillin, 30, grew up in Lindsay, Okla., where the dirt is definitely red. Hillin...

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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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