After OU President David Boren responded to Indigenize OU's mission to remove the word "Sooner" from the university's identity, the Native American student group responded on its Facebook page.
The group wanted to emphasize, after its previous response last night expressing their disappointment in Boren's statement, that its issue is not with "hurt feelings," but with a larger picture issue of "invisibility and neglect" of the Native American community.
Indigenize OU said it would collaborate with other groups on campus "who have faced similar silencing and dismissal," and that combined, they would "let the administration know they do not have a right to redefine history."
Philosophy sophomore and Indigenize OU leader Sydne Gray called upon other student groups to band with Indigenize OU on Twitter.
Read Indigenize OU's full statement here:
The words Boren uses to dismiss our concern with the “boomer sooner” implications are deeply troubling. We anticipated Boren’s reaction to our agenda to disagree with the need for change of the mascot, but we did not anticipate for him to attempt to whitewash, neglect, destroy, erase, and replace the history of the Oklahoma Land Runs.
Boren thinks that the meaning of “boomer” and “sooner” are removed from their historical context and means something different today. It is important to recognize that this statement comes from a place of privilege. Boren holds a position of power, and when he makes statements like this, it communicates to the student body that he is correct and that our concerns are unimportant. We assert that Boren does not have the authority to redefine these words and displace them from their historical weight that continues to affect our friends and families to this day.
Perhaps the most troubling part of Boren’s statement is “The history of the term is not nearly as important as what it stands for today.”
We, as indigenous peoples, have been subject to fighting from within systems that have displaced us and stripped us of identity, sovereignty, land, bodily autonomy, food, belief systems, an economy, languages, heritage, traditions, and values. Because of this, history is very important to us. The stories of our ancestors are often treated as being artifacts of the distant past, and this rhetoric is extremely dangerous to the severe conditions our families are facing today. We face severe underrepresentation in mainstream media and major news reporting. Many people are unaware that indigenous people are the most likely to be killed by the police, the extreme poverty faced by our families on reservations, the abuses faced in residential schools, the lack of physical and mental health care leading to homelessness. All of these are symptoms of extremely traumatizing events such as the Oklahoma Land Run, of which the terms “boomer” and “sooner” were coined by the white settlers who displaced our families. There is intergenerational suffering that persists due to these events that occurred not long ago. We are not historical artifacts, these are very real issues that we are confronted by every single day.
To insist on removing the historical context behind the suffering of our families contributes to the rhetoric that we are a people of the distant past. Oklahoma has the second highest population of indigenous peoples in the nation. To erase our history is to erase the diseases our families are suffering from. To erase our history is to ignore our brothers and sisters living in extreme poverty on reservations.
Understand that this isn't about being "offended" or having "hurt feelings." The words "boomer" and "sooner" and their celebration is a symptom of this bigger picture of invisibility and neglect, and we find that it is a priority to educate people on the meaning behind them and the history that is implied, as well as the current conditions the indigenous people who were displaced face as a consequences. It isn't that we feel "offended" every time we hear or see the words "boomer" or "sooner." We are blatantly disrespected and ignored as a people who currently exist and are facing the consequences of the Oklahoma Land Runs to this day. We as a people must face the fact that our people, traditions, and the story of our ancestors will face eventual extinction if this continues. Our survival depends on these representations. They are all we have. Every single one matters.
We feel that here, at the University of Oklahoma, the issues of First Nations people ought to take first priority considering our state’s history. We also recognize that Boren’s statement is dangerous, and a symptom of a much larger problem of silencing marginalized communities. To move forward, we will be collaborating with many other groups here on campus who have faced similar silencing and dismissal, to display unity and allyship, and to let the administration know they do not have the right to redefine history.