- Lani Hansen
UKB Helps Tahlequah celebrate Second Annual Indigenous People's Day
BY TRISTA VAUGHN, INTERN
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT, EDITOR
TAHLEQUAH – On October 8 the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians joined several other tribal nations and organizations to help the city of Tahlequah celebrate its Second Annual Indigenous People’s Day.
The celebration replaced Columbus Day and honored the common history and culture of all Indigenous Peoples. It was held in partnership between the city, the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of Oklahoma and Northeastern State University’s Center for Tribal Studies.
IPAO member and UKB Tahlequah District Representative Teresa Webber helped organize this year’s event.
“I am very honored to be a part of the Indigenous People’s Day Alliance and feel it's one of the best accomplishments I could ever give to my children, family and community,” said Webber. ”NSU has set an enormous precedence for other colleges to reach for. They were great and I'm glad to be able to have a positive work relationship with them.”
Activities began at NSU’s Beta Field with a stickball exhibition. It was followed by an Indigenous People’s Walk towards the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma Peace Pavilion, during which each tribal nation carried their flag as a way to showcase their representation on the day.
UKB Honor Guard’s Hominy Littledave led the march, holding the UKB flag high while walking alongside Jr. Miss Keetoowah Destinee Kingfisher-Wolfe.
“Everyone was so proud to be Native American and this sets a good example for other universities across the country to take part in why it’s important to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day and not Columbus Day,” said Kingfisher-Wolfe. “Columbus wasn’t as good as everyone was taught and (today) is so important to all Natives and non-Natives. We were not only misinterpreted, but we had the land and resources that Columbus said he found.”
Upon arriving at the CNO Peace Pavilion, community members were invited to partake in a dinner and listen to several speakers including Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols, NSU President Steve Turner, NSU Center for Tribal Studies Director Sara Barnett-Nsakashalo, CNO Chief Bill John Baker and UKB Chief Joe Bunch.
“It is good to see the world is realizing Native Americans were once the largest landowners in the world,” said Bunch. “We were also the most generous people with little in return. I am thanking each and every one of you for all you have done to be involved with this occasion. We are so grateful for the people who helped put this on.”
The keynote speaker for the event was Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk, a Democratic candidate for District 35 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. She is a tribal citizen of the Seminole Nation, as well as a descendant of the Pawnee, Iowa, Omaha, and Creek Nations.
“There should never be a limit on Native Americans,” said Echo-Hawk. “We need to have Native representation at all levels to hear and understand how it affects us. With the generations after us, they are going to see that Native Americans can conquer anything. We are bold, we are vibrant and we are resilient.”
The Indigenous People’s Day event was one of hundreds held across the U.S. that effectively replaced the celebration of Columbus Day, which critics say honors the mass genocide and colonization of Native Americans.
This year Oklahoma City also joined Tahlequah and a handful of other Oklahoma cities in celebrating after Mayor David Holt, a member of the Osage Nation, proclaimed it a holiday last month. The proclamation came after several unsuccessful attempts to convince the city council to vote in favor of replacing the holiday.