OKMULGEE, Okla.- The Okmulgee Indian Community (OIC) celebrated their 40th anniversary and hosted a Christmas Party at their center on Dec. 11. They celebrated 40 years as a chartered community and are one of the original communities chartered by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and former MCN Principal Chief Claude Cox.
OIC Chair Viriginia Thomas (Mvskoke) spoke about how important this community is to her and the celebration of not only the anniversary, but the Christmas party as well. Two of the community’s oldest members in attendance were invited as well.
The community has hosted different Christmas-themed events in the past. This year included a potluck, an ugly Christmas sweaters contest, a dessert contest, and a visit from Native Santa. According to Thomas, the event gets bigger every year and always has a great turnout.
Each member who attended the event received either a commemorative T-shirt or a bag with the community’s 40th anniversary logo.
“We are going to make a good celebration and we always give something away to the members. Like this Christmas we are giving away hams,” Thomas said.
MCN Historic and Cultural Preservation helped lead Christmas Mvskoke hymn singing.
OIC members made candy bags composed of apples, oranges, candy canes and other goodies. Thomas reminisced about the days when she was child and received goodie bags from her community. She also recalled her excitement when she received a goodie bag. This was the feeling OIC board members wanted to provide for others. According to Thomas, the party was designed to be enjoyed by all community members of all ages.
“Just getting to see each other and the people that can’t make it to the meeting consistently, they will come to this one and the kids that are growing up,” Thomas said.
This event was not only a special one for OIC board members, but the entire community as well. The evening was filled with laughter and fellowship.
When the OIC first became chartered they did not have a building, however they held meetings at the New Town Church. This is where community members began coming together, eventually organizing a board with members to oversee the group’s structure and event planning.
Thomas started with the board in 2000 as OIC treasurer. “I remember just being young and thinking ‘what am I doing and how am I going to do this?’ but I listened to what they had to say,” Thomas said.
According to Thomas, the OIC is the second largest community within the Nation and are the most active. They currently have over 700 members.
One of the most influential people Thomas looked up to was a member named Peggy who formally served as vice chairman on the OIC board. According to Thomas, Peggy knew everyone within the community. Thomas was inspired by seeing how much of an impact Peggy made.
“I was in awe that she knew these people and it was like she knew who was related to who, what church they went to, how many kids they had and how many grandkids they had. It was because of her involvement within the community and that’s what I wanted,” Thomas said.
According to Thomas, Peggy wanted her own family to attend the OIC, with the hope that each generation would stay active in it. Thomas said that is exactly what happened because she saw Peggy’s children and grandchildren get involved in the community; each new generation continuing to leave a positive impact.
The OIC has different sub committees including economic development, language and elders. The elders sub committee parktakes in activities including exercise classes, walking, chair volleyball and cooking classes.
According to Thomas, the OIC building is always busy with different meetings or events. She is very proud of the new OIC building, as well as the board members and community that inhabit it. Thomas stated that she is proud of how much they have achieved as they strive to be a model community.
Current board members include Chair Thomas, Vice Chair Makayla Harjo, Secretary Connie Dearman, Treasurer Missy Sanders and Sargent-at-Arms Marcus Proctor.
Although the community board members were not specifically trained on their current positions, they each learned as they went along. According to Thomas, the board has been working well with communication by providing periodical updates and seeking to see how they can improve services for community members.
Thomas explained that serving on the board is like another job because of the daily duties that each member has to do. However, she still gets excited to see everything come together.
“I think we couldn’t do something like this if we didn’t have the support of our Nation,” Thomas said. “I’m proud of this community and I’m proud of any legacy that I leave behind. They will already know what I do and so I’m just proud of whoever comes behind me and it’s going to go on.”