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OU Undergraduate Student Congress votes to approve Indigenous Peoples' Day resolution

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Indigenize OU

From left: Sydne Gray, philosophy sophomore, Josh Murphy, health and exercise science senior, Jesse Robbins, Native American studies senior and Ashley McCray, History of Science Program doctoral student pose together after Tuesday night's SGA Congress meeting. The resolution to have the university recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous People's Day was stalled at the Tuesday night meeting.

The Undergraduate Student Congress voted to approve a resolution written by Indigenize OU recognizing Oct. 12 as Indigenous Peoples' Day for the OU campus on Tuesday night.

Although the resolution already passed in the Graduate Student Senate on Sept. 27, and because the resolution's language was changed, the senate will have to vote on it again on Oct. 11, Congress Chair Emily Sample said.

Spanish International Studies and World Language Education senior Brooke Lefler proposed the amendment for the wording of one of the clauses of the amendment.

The language was previously “the state of Oklahoma has the second largest population of indigenous people in the nation and since 2012 the enrollment rate of Native American students at OU has decreased significantly, demonstrating the lack of welcoming environment and resources available for Native Students.”

To better represent the need to develop a more welcoming environment, Lefler suggested changing it to "Whereas the State of Oklahoma has the second largest population of indigenous people in the nation and whereas the University of Oklahoma aims to recruit, serve and retain indigenous students, faculty and staff, Indigenous Peoples’ Day will contribute to creating a welcoming environment and informing students of available resources."

Nevertheless, members of Indigenize OU are satisfied with the progress the group has made.

This past week, both the General Student Senate and congress met with members of Indigenize OU to formally write a resolution to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Traditionally, a concurrent resolution is written, then it moves through congress, is passed in the senate and travels to the executive branch before being signed by President David Boren to become a law.

“A resolution is a recommendation,” Sample said.

This time, both legislative bodies of SGA came together in a joint committee with Indigenize OU to formally write the resolution.

“We ended up forming this joint committee to craft the legislation together and pass it as one body,” SGA President Alex Byron said. “What (this joint meeting is) doing is not forgoing the committee process but rather replacing it in order to do a joint resolution as opposed to a concurrent resolution. The implications of this are a little different. As opposed to saying both bodies support and affirm this statement or resolution being passed, when you do a joint resolution, you say all of SGA, consequently all of the student bodies, support this opinion.”

The main goal of the resolution is to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day on campus. SGA helped write the resolution to best represent Indigenize OU in SGA.

“We spoke with Ashley McCray and Sydne Gray from Indigenize OU," Daniel Pae, human diversity chair, said. They provided us with a draft resolution, which we discussed during the course of the meeting. We ensured that the ideas and main points they emphasized were included in the final draft of the resolution.” 

Sample said SGA as well as Indigenize OU hope to send the resolution to various people, such as Gov. Mary Fallin.

During the Graduate Student Senate meeting on Sunday, Indigenize OU explained its goals and aspirations for the resolution.

This bill collectively passed without opposition and moved on to the congress meeting held on Tuesday.

The room was packed with people who were anxious to hear the ruling of the resolution. Indigenize OU stood in front of congress and, once again, explained its hope for this recognition. The group had 20 minutes; but, Ashley McCray only took two minutes to present the piece of legislation. The rest of the time allotted was moved to questioning.

Much of the discussion was about the events Indigenize OU has proposed for Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The group plans on working with organizations like the Campus Activities Council and Union Programming Board to collaborate for an event it hopes will highlight its culture.

The group wants a celebration to showcase its vibrant culture with song, dance, food and other cultural representations, McCray said.

“It’s still passing the day of Columbus Day, and maybe that’s what the creator of all things needed it to be. The spirits made it that day. That’s the day it needs to be. We still get to go back to our families and say it passed,” Robbins said.

Gray and Robbins are both extremely optimistic about the future of the resolution.

“When we first saw the senate, they received the resolution very well. There wasn’t as much conversation and questions. It was something they agreed upon unanimously,” Gray said.

The resolution will be delivered to the senate on Oct. 11. Then it would need to be signed by Byron and then Boren for OU to recognize the holiday.

“It’s necessary, and we need to do it now,” McCray said. 

CORRECTION: This story was corrected at 9:58 a.m. on Wednesday Sept. 30. In the original story, the new amendment language read "...Indigenous People's Day would contribute to making a welcoming environment and informing students." The story now reflects the actual language of the amendment: "...Indigenous Peoples’ Day will contribute to creating a welcoming environment and informing students of available resources."

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