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OKC activists to request that city council replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day

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Sarah Adams-Cornell belongs to the Choctaw Nation and is working to have Oklahoma City officially observe Indigenous Peoples' Day.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Could Oklahoma City soon be celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October in place of Columbus Day?

Sarah Adams-Cornell is a member of the Choctaw Nation and the activist-in-residence in the Department of Social Justice at the University of Oklahoma. She and approximately 15 Native American activists plan to attend Tuesday morning’s City Council meeting in the hope that they will consider doing the right thing.

“We’ve learned for so long that Columbus discovered America, but indigenous people were already here,” she told Red Dirt Report, adding, “To form a holiday around someone who committed atrocities – murder, rape, mutilation – it’s something that needs to be addressed.”

Adams-Cornell, who helped in getting the offensive Capitol Hill High School Redskins mascot changed earlier this year, said changing this holiday has been a project she has wanted to pursue for a long time.

“Things have lined up to make it a good time to address this issue,” she said.

Adams-Cornell has been working quickly to spread the word about the Indigenous Peoples’ Day proposal, sharing the hashtag #ipdOKC on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere.

Celebrating Columbus Day, Adams-Cornell said, is “a real slap in the face of indigenous people,” no different, she said, than if there was a day celebrating Adolf Hitler.

In 2014, Red Dirt Report featured an editorial calling for Oklahoma City’s City Council to no longer recognize Columbus Day and instead replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It had been successfully changed in other cities, including Minneapolis and Seattle, and with Oklahoma City’s historical ties to Native American life and culture it was seen as being a no-brainer.

“This is a good step in telling the truth about Columbus and his legacy and also honoring the first inhabitants of this land,” Adams-Cornell said. “It is about addressing the atrocities against us and trying to right that.”

Adams-Cornell admitted that it’s never easy to talk about issues like the atrocities that happened against indigenous people, as happened under the watch of explorer and imperialist Christopher Columbus upon his arrival in the Americas in October 1492. But, she said, making sure children know the accurate history of our state and country is important.

“We are talking about genocide,” she said. “It’s never something people want to hear about but we will be addressing those issues.”

In talking with Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, he expressed to Red Dirt Report his interest in supporting a resolution to change the name and recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. And while it may not be changed this year, it could be changed and observed in 2016 if the council supports it.

“We need to look at the man Columbus was,” Shadid told Red Dirt Report. “Even for that time he was off the charts when it came to violence.”

Adams-Cornell said she appreciates Shadid’s support on this important issue.

Tuesday’s City Council begins at 8:30 a.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 200 N. Walker Avenue.

To learn more about Oklahoma City’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day efforts, go to www.facebook.com/ipdOKC

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

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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