OKMULGEE, Okla.- The Okmulgee Indigenous Peoples’ Day was held at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Council house on Oct. 9. The day was filled with different vendors, guest speakers, fellowship and fun for attendees. The purpose of the day is to gather together the community to celebrate Native cultures and their resiliency.
Terra Beaver (Mvskoke) and Brenda Golden (Mvskoke) set up this event together. This year marks their seventh year of celebrating Indigenous People’s Day in Okmulgee. Golden founded the annual celebration in Okmulgee, Beaver would later join her in hosting duties.
This event featured the Mvskoke Lady Legends serving a free meal, different vendors, Mvskoke hymn singing, a Native fashion show and performers.
This year the event saw between 500 to 600 attendees that came out to celebrate. Event coordinators do not necessarily keep a headcount, but they base the numbers from meals served, as well as to-go boxes that were handed out.
“It’s gotten so big and it’s a really good turnout. It’s growing,” Beaver said.
Seven years ago when the event started in Okmulgee, Golden would bring water and food. From there, that is when the Mvskoke Lady Legends wanted to get involved to help prepare food and serve.
“They did all the shopping for the meals, and all of the ladies kind of did the traditional serving free meal,” Beaver said. “People always can’t turn down a free meal.”
Guest speakers and performers were an open call. Event organizers sought Mvskoke citizens to perform, however the call was open to all Native Americans, regardless of tribal affiliation.
Golden coordinated the food donations, including donations from different sponsors, and volunteers. Beaver handled the sign ups of the live performances, guest speakers and vendors.
The event requires two different meetings; one for preparation and one with the Mvskoke Lady Legends for food. Next year, organizers are wanting the community to become more involved with planning for the event.
Speakers and Vendors
Some of the guest speakers at this year’s event were MCN National Council Representative Galen Cloud, Brittney Cuevas, Rita Willams and Grover Wind. “The speakers and performers that came out to see them and celebrate, that is what made a great Indigenous Peoples’ day in Okmulgee,” Beaver said.
Vendors that were present had to get a tax permit to set up shop. The event not only featured tribal program booths, but also state programs such as the Oklahoma Fosters and the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
This year featured the second time for the fashion show. Citizens were welcome to model clothing, there was not any requirement to participate. Nelson Harjo Sr. played the flute while participants strutted down the runway.
“I do an open call, inviting people to participate and we roll out their card with a name, tribe of where they are from, or if they want to announce the artist that they are wanting,” Beaver said. “I just really love that part, because some are shy but by the time they are done they’re like ‘it’s not too bad’”.
This year’s event sponsors included first-time sponsor East Central Electric, MCN Second Chief Del Beaver, and MCN National Council Speaker William Lowe.
Porter Public Schools acted as a personal sponsor, and brought students to participate and volunteer.
“Usually when we take down the event that’s where people there are eager to help,” Beaver said.
MCN also sponsored the event by appropriating $2,000 in funds toward meals and utensils. “We are very grateful for that,” Beaver said.
One of the participants, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Eastern Chapter President Abbie Harjochee (Mvskoke) had a great time at this event and was glad to take part in the event as well.
“We got to show who we are as people as Indigenous people, we got to speak our voice and where we come from,” Harjochee said. “To me it’s letting the world know who we are and where we come from as Indigenous people and what our ancestors endured in the past.”
Talking about what the day is truly about, Beaver knows it involves recognizing trauma and struggles. However, in spite of adversity she believes the event acts as a time to heal through celebration. “There is a lot of grief and loss we face as Native people dealing with it in different ways. This helps with connection and support, it’s more of a healing time,” Beaver said.
Beaver had a great time seeing everyone come out, particularly to see them laughing and enjoying each other’s company.
“We are Native people that are still here, rising and growing into the future,” Beaver said.