On Monday, Oklahoma officially recognizes Native American Day with a 2019 law designating this recognition as the second Monday in October. In typical Oklahoma fashion, it accompanies rather than replaces Columbus Day, a public holiday intended to pay homage to the European “discovery” that represents slavery, genocide and the beginning of the end of our way of life. original life for indigenous peoples.
Oklahoma’s official recognition of Native American Day is part of a growing nationwide movement to embrace and preserve the history, heritage and cultures of the people who first lived on these lands. Or more simply, it seeks to eradicate the eradication of Indigenous peoples that has occurred since Columbus sailed the Blue Ocean.
This moment is one of increased visibility for Aboriginal people. We’re seeing long overdue progress in renaming racist mascots for sports teams, including prominent major league clubs and local high schools. Oklahoma filmmaker Sterlin Harjo (Seminole and Muscogee) presented the acclaimed Reservation Dogs, the first TV show focused on the Indigenous experience and where every writer, director and regular series is Indigenous.
And, last month saw the opening of the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, where visitors can learn about the cultural diversity, history and contributions of Indigenous peoples. This museum has been in the making for almost 30 years, a project that finally moved away from the center in 2015 when the Chickasaw Nation offered to complete construction and manage the museum.
Otherwise, you will be hard pressed to find official recognition of Native American Day in our state. A quick search of state government or tourism websites returned nothing and the results were very limited for a general Google search. However, congratulations to the city of Tulsa on its 5th annual Tulsa Native American Day, which this year features virtual citywide programming.
As the home of 39 federally recognized tribal nations within its borders, Oklahoma offers more than 90 tribal cultural centers, museums, and historic sites statewide. Each stop details the richness of tribal heritage, as well as the ongoing efforts to preserve the culture, traditions and languages that white settlers attempted to wipe out. Preservation efforts which, even today, are threatened by the recent House Bill 1775 and its frightening impact on the teaching of race and identity issues in universities and public schools.
In recent years, Native Americans have made strides in recovering our stolen history and stopping the erasure of our cultures. We cannot stop now.
Ahniwake Rose is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Institute of Politics.