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OU celebrates Indigenous Peoples' Day with cultural discussions, activities

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Indigenous People's Day celebration walk Oct. 14, 2019.

OU will celebrate Indigenous People's Day on Monday with an all-day celebration until 9 p.m. 

The day kicks off festivities at 9:30 a.m. with a celebration walk on the South Oval from Dale Hall to the Bizzell statue, a stickball presentation and basket making and beading workshops at 1:30 p.m., and will finish with an engaging softball game for the community in Rotary Park at 6 p.m. 

For Amanda Cobb-Greetham, chair of the Department for Native American Studies, she sees Indigenous People's Day as an opportunity to begin a year of learning about Native American culture. 

“2019 is the international year of Indigenous languages,” Cobb-Greetham said. “We are featuring language and language revitalization all year long, but we are kicking off on Indigenous People's Day with a lunch and learn.” 

The lunch and learn is a discussion about Native culture over lunch at 11:30 a.m. on the ninth floor of Dale Hall. It will showcase language as a personal journey through spoken Choctaw, Cobb-Greetham said. The lunch and learn will feature an intimate conversation about Native heritage with speakers over supplied box lunches. 

“We don’t want people to just come and have an abstract thought that language is important,” Cobb-Greetham said. “When you hear people share their personal experiences, whether they’re a first language speaker or a second language speaker, or how language connects them to culture and identity and our families and ancestors, it’s a powerful, powerful thing.” 

OU is considered the geographical center for ancestral homelands of Native Americans, Cobb-Greetham said. She believes it is important for OU’s campus to recognize the sovereignty of the 39 Native nations thriving in Oklahoma. 

“It helps to call attention to (Native American) history, which has been a painful history for Indigenous people,” Cobb-Greetham said. 

Cordelia Falls Down, political science senior, public relations chair for the American Indian Student Association and 2017-18 Miss Indian OU, plans to spend the day celebrating her culture. 

“Celebrating Indigenous People's day is important to the entire OU community because it erases the ‘Columbus discovered America’ narrative and replaces it with the message that Indigenous people remain the first peoples and nations of this land before anyone or anything,” Falls Down said in a direct message. “And we are still here.”

Warren Queton, OU’s tribal liaison, was deployed overseas with the Oklahoma Army National Guard during last year’s celebration. This year, Queton said he’s excited to see students connect and celebrate their Native heritage in Norman. 

“Indigenous People’s Day celebrates the thriving cultures and values of the Indigenous people at the University of Oklahoma,” Queton said in an email.

Queton said this year’s celebration plans to involve the OU community in a more engaging way than previous years. 

“This year, we started a community engagement activity with our students, faculty, staff and alumni,” Queton said. “Instead of having a speaker this year, we are having a faculty, staff and alumni softball game for students to network and connect with other members of the community.” 

While parts of the country still celebrate Columbus Day, Cobb-Greetham sees Indigenous People's Day as a way to reclaim heritage. 

“Norman has Indigenous People’s Day, OKC has Indigenous People's Day, but the university was one of the first in the state,” Cobb-Greetham said. “Such a day should happen no matter what.”

For many participating in Monday’s celebration, including Queton, the day is a way to celebrate their identity.  

“I am proud to be Indigenous and want to express my own indigeneity in every way I can,” Queton said. 

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