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OKC Mayor Proclaims Oct. 8 as 'Indigenous Peoples' Day' in OKC, Ending Long Battle

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Time and time again, a proposed resolution to officially make the second Tuesday of October Indigenous Peoples' Day was rejected by the Oklahoma City Council, but as of Monday, October 8 will now be known as Indigenous People’s Day in Oklahoma City.

New Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, Live Indigenous OK and Oklahoma City University, Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion will host Indigenous Peoples’ Day proclamation reading and discussion panel on Monday, October 8 to celebrate Oklahoma’s thriving Indigenous cultures and people. 

The fact that Oklahoma City was the only major city in Oklahoma that has rejected the proposition to re-name the second Monday in October to Indigenous Peoples' Day speaks volumes about where they stand in recognizing Native Americans value to their city and state, said supporters of the change.

A celebration and educational panel will take place at 6 p.m. at The Great Hall inside the Tom & Brenda McDaniel University Center, 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave, Oklahoma City, OK. Featured panelists include Governor Edwina Butler-Wolfe, Absentee Shawnee Tribe; Stephanie Hudson, Executive Director of Oklahoma Indian Legal Services; Phil Gover, Founder of Sovereign Community School; and Dr. Heather Ahtone, Senior Curator at American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. Discussion will be centered around the history of Oklahoma City, issues impacting Native people and exciting developments in our community.

“Whether called Indigenous, Native, Native American or American Indian, we value the contributions made by our citizens of Indigenous heritage, as we value all people. And so, I have just signed a proclamation declaring October 8 to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day in OKC,” Mayor Holt said in a statement Monday.

“Oklahoma City is proud to be the future home of the American Indian Cultural Center, the future home of Sovereign Community School, the home of Red Earth, the home of Sovereignty Symposium, and I’m proud to be the City’s first Native Mayor (Osage).”

The year 2017 marked the 80th anniversary of Columbus Day being declared a federal holiday by the U.S. government. On Oct. 12, 1492, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas, and in 1937, Columbus Day was designated as a federal holiday with observance on the second Monday in October.

However, backlash and criticism of Columbus Day has grown in recent years due to historical information about Columbus’s treatment of the indigenous people of the Americas and his role in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, genocide and other atrocities.

On Sept. 20, 2017, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum brought a resolution to the city council to vote on adding “Native American Day” as an official holiday that would be celebrated on the second Monday of October. 

Oklahoma City’s City Council, however, rejected a similar proposal last year, much to the dismay of Indigenous People’s Day supporters and tribes.

“A few years ago, the idea of Indigenous Peoples’ Day was presented and became an annual source of argument. This seemed unfortunate considering Oklahoma City’s relatively high Indigenous population and the fact that a similar day has been declared in cities across the nation, including in Oklahoma,” Holt said.

“Oklahoma has a unique history and Oklahoma City is inextricably tied to that history.  We are proud to be the capital city of a state that is the home of 39 tribes. We are proud that our city’s history is preceded by many, many centuries of Indigenous history.”

Holt’s announcement and proclamation pleased the groups that had fought to change the official Columbus Day holiday.

“Live Indigenous OK is proud to work with Mayor Holt, many community members and leaders to add Oklahoma City to the growing list of cities and universities across the nation who recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We honor the importance of this narrative shift to reflect the accurate history of Indigenous people, this land base and those who explored and exploited,” said Sarah Adams-Cornell of Live Indigenous OK.

“We also celebrate the historic and contemporary contributions of Indigenous people and culture to our community and recognize this land as the homeland to many sovereign tribal nations. Live Indigenous OK acknowledges that while this new designation doesn’t change substantial issues that impact our community, it does offer an opportunity for conversation that will lead to education and collaboration toward systemic change.”


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Heide Brandes

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