TVLSE, Okla. – Hundreds of people celebrated Indigenous People’s Day at Dreamkeepers Park in Tulsa on Monday, Oct. 9. The event, hosted by the Greater Tulsa Indian Affairs Commision, highlighted the presence, influence, and perseverance of the Indigenous communities throughout the Tulsa area. The 2023 theme was “Weaving a Legacy.”
The annual celebration kicked off with opening remarks from local and tribal leaders.
In a speech to the crowd, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill stated, “Today, we no longer celebrate discovery… We celebrate survival. We celebrate cultures that wouldn’t cave-in to colonization. We celebrate generations that resisted genocide. We celebrate people who were removed, and then rebuilt…It’s an honor to stand here today with fellow tribal leaders, who carry the same responsibilities as we do. Our reservation boundaries joining together here in this city leaves us certain that the success we’ve all shared here is no coincidence; we are better when we are together.”
In his speech, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Hoskin, Jr. stated, “This is a great day. There is progress afoot as Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated across the United States. Any Indigenous Peoples’ Day in this country has to also look back at the history of this country…Recognizing that history is something we have to do in this country. If we don’t do it, folks, they will forget. And there’s some people in this country that simply want to forget. But we’re not going to let them forget.”
The parade kicked off soon after, and featured parade marshal Dana Tiger (Creek). Tiger stood in for screenwriter and director Sterlin Harjo (Creek) who was absent from the event due to a family emergency. Tribal leaders from the Osage Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and Cherokee Nation followed. The MCN Women’s Honor Guard came after with MCN royalty, Chenoa Barnett and Georgia Harjo, behind.
Local community groups and organizations like the Tulsa Indian Community, OSU Indian Alumni Association, and Tulsa Tech walked the route.
Many secondary school groups also took part in the parade. Student associations from Broken Arrow, Tulsa Public Schools, Talaquah and Catoosa walked behind floats or banners.
The sound of marching band music waxed and waned as students from Owasso, Sequoyah and other area schools marched the route. All the while, plenty of candy was tossed to the eager crowd along the parade path.
After the parade, cultural demonstrations and exhibitions took center stage at the park with performances by groups including the Cherokee Choir and Rising Buffalo Dancers.
The performance area was outlined with the stands and stalls of Indigenous artisans and craftspeople. Local community organizations such as the Indigenous Food and Agricultural Innitative and Mission 22: United in the War Against Veteran Suicide had tents as well.
In comments to Mvskoke Media, Chief Hill stated,
“The importance of celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day is very important and I’m glad they changed it. As I said, to know that our struggles that we had on the trail of tears to come here, this is where our tree still stands, our council oak is still growing strong roots. We’re here and we’re not leaving.”
When asked what he was looking forward to, Second Chief Del Beaver replied,
“Seeing everyone here, you see your friends here, from your nation, not from your nation. So you just see everybody here and really that’s what it’s about. Being around your people and your friends and really that’s what we’re all about. It’s about community and so when we get outside of our nation, we’re a community as a whole, all Indian people. We’re all friends here, we’re just enjoying each other’s company.”