Oct. 9 is recognized as Native American Day by the city of Tulsa. Tulsa is the first city in Oklahoma to officially recognize this holiday, setting a precedent that soon many other cities in the state may follow. Starting back in 2017, Tulsa City Council and Mayor G. T. Bynum approved a resolution to establish every second Monday of October as Native American Day. After seven years, this annual city event takes place at Dream Keeper’s Park, where it is hosted by the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission.
This year, the celebration began at 9 a.m. with the opening ceremony led by Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commissioner Matt Roberts. An introduction followed the opening to introduce the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission and dignitaries, an introduction video from Mayor B.T. Bynum, and a proclamation reading by Tulsa City Councilor Laura Bellis.
A land acknowledgement for the Tulsa area was read aloud, giving acknowledgment to the fact that Tulsa is the home of the Muscogee Creek, Osage, and Cherokee Nations. It is a verbal act to give honor and show respect to the Native people who call Tulsa their home.
At 10 a.m., the three tribal leaders of the reservations that make up Tulsa were introduced: Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear of the Osage Nation, Chief David Hill of the Muscogee Creek Nation, and Chief Chuck Hoskin of the Cherokee Nation. They introduced themselves to the crowd at Dream Keeper’s Park.
Hoskin spoke last out of the chiefs. He shared some impactful words about this important day. “A day in which we reflect on the present but also the past, but most importantly, the future.”
Hoskin’s continues, “And when we think about what is going on in the present, look around us. Look at the celebration, look at the joy, look at the multiple generations of Natives and non-Natives coming together and learning more about the great culture that is on display here. The Native peoples that are still here, and we’re all celebrating them here and now as a community, and that is something that’s beautiful, and it’s something in and of itself. That is worth celebrating.”
“And we are not to forget the history of this country. And we ought to remind this country that the history of Native peoples in this country is a history of dispossession. It’s a history of oppression, it’s a history of theft, and it’s a history of injustice. And we ought to remember it. We ought to remind the country about it.”
Hoskin’s speech rallied up the crowd, which reacted warmly to his remarks on this joyous day. Chief Hoskin, Chief Hill, and Chief Standing Bear were all met with a standing ovation as they left the stage to prepare for the parade. A group of inter-tribal singers began to sing as they played a large powwow drum while the parade prepared for takeoff.
The grand marshal for the Native American Day Parade was set to be Sterlin Harjo, a Native American writer, director, and producer from Oklahoma. Unfortunately, Harjo was unable to attend the event. In his absence, Native American artist, Dana Tiger, became the parade marshal as she led the parade down South Boston Avenue as it circled around Dream Keeper’s Park.
The Native American Day Parade featured many local organizations and schools. Each of the three Indigenous Nations of the Tulsa area, Tulsa Public Schools, OSU (Oklahoma State University), Tulsa Tech, and Tulsa Community College’s Native American Student Association participated in this year’s parade.
At the park, many merchant booths, which sold a multitude of art, clothing, memorabilia, and jewelry, were on display. Food trucks lined the sidewalks of the park as hungry paradegoers patronized them.
After the parade, a list of events was displayed on the big screen at the main stage. At 1 p.m., the Cherokee choir took the stage, followed by the Pawnee Singers and Dancers.
By 1:30 p.m., Standing Bear sat with some of the actors for the upcoming film “Killers of the Flower Moon” for a question-and-answer session that also featured a trailer for the film, which premiers on Oct. 20.
At 2 p.m., a dance exhibition was performed by the Rising Buffalo Dance Group.
There were many events, ceremonies, and presentations hosted that afternoon. A post event performance would close Native American Day with a performance from artists Monica Taylor, Aaron Hale, and a local Indigenous sludge metal band from Tulsa known as Medicine Horse.
Medicine Horse recently released its debut album on Sept. 7 and are set to perform on Halloween weekend, Oct. 28, at the Whitter Bar for its release party.
In 2021, Pres. Joe Biden signed the first presidential proclamation for Indigenous People’s Day. Though many still consider this day Colombus Day due to Indigenous People’s Day not being an officially recognized federal holiday.
However, Native American Day is a day to celebrate Native American heritage, culture, and communities. Monday’s festivities were to honor those whose ancestry is kept alive through the generations and the land in which they inhabited for thousands of years. Like Hoskin said, “The Native peoples that are still here, and we’re all celebrating them here and now as a community, and that is something that’s beautiful, and it’s something in and of itself. That is worth celebrating.” Native American Day will be celebrated next year on the second Monday of October and will mark the eighth year celebrating this important holiday.