OKMULGEE, Oklahoma – Indigenous People around the country observed Oct. 11 as Indigenous Peoples Day.
The second Monday of October has been observed as Columbus Day and designated as a federal holiday since 1971, but thousands of Indigenous people and their supporters have claimed the day back and celebrate it as Indigenous Peoples Day.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day claimed its roots in 1977 at an international conference on discrimination sponsored by the United Nations. South Dakota was the first state to recognize the holiday in 1989.
Shortly after, the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations, a group sponsored by the UN, began having discussions about replacing Columbus Day.
The first presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day was issued on Oct. 8 by President Joe Biden.
Biden also proclaimed the day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in recognition of tribal nations’ resiliency and sovereignty.
“For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures. Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society,” read the proclamation. “We also recommit to supporting a new, brighter future of promise and equity for Tribal Nations — a future grounded in Tribal sovereignty and respect for the human rights of Indigenous people in the Americas and around the world.”
In the capital city of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, an annual celebration was held on the Council House lawn in Downtown Okmulgee.
The gathering of Indigenous people at the Okmulgee event was large in comparison to last year’s mid-pandemic event.
Culture was on display from vendor’s handmade beaded jewelry to purchase, to food that included Native dishes like sofke and frybread, from the Muscogee language speakers and musicians that performed.
The event kicked off with the Mvskoke Honor Guard posting of the Colors and Flag Song.
A proclamation from Mayor Richard Larabee was read by Muscogee (Creek) citizen and City Council Member Marcus Jeffrey claiming the day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the City of Okmulgee. Alongside Jeffrey was Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council Okmulgee District Representative James Jennings.
The event was concluded with a social stomp dance, traditional songs and closing prayer.
Other local celebrations included the City of Muskogee’s two-day event Oct. 10-11. This kicked off with an Indigenous Film Festival at the Roxy Theatre on the first evening. The morning of the holiday started with an Indigenous March and led to a day full of cultural experience.
The City of Tulsa held its fourth annual celebration virtually this year due to the pandemic after last year’s event being canceled. The recorded event can be watched at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef60mWPwmws.