MIAMI, Okla. — Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College will celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day by unveiling its new Centennial Tribal Monument on Monday.
Along with the unveiling, the celebration will include a reception, poetry reading, giveaways and a panel featuring chiefs from three local tribes and nations. Events will begin at 1 p.m. outside Kah-Ne Hall on the NEO campus.
"Indigenous Peoples' Day and the Centennial Tribal Monument unveiling will mark a historic occasion on campus that helps tie NEO and the 10 area tribes and nations together," said Hannah Berryman, mentor for the American Indian Center for Excellence, in a statement. "Our partnership with the local native tribes will be highlighted during the event, and we look forward to seeing the campus, tribes and community celebrate our special day."
The monument will feature 10 steel feathers in a circle nearly 12 feet tall; they represent the nine member tribes of the Inter Tribal Council as well as the Cherokee Nation. The project was supported by the tribal partners, the Native American Student Association and the NEO Development Foundation.
After the unveiling, the American Indian Center for Excellence will host panelists Ethel Cook, chief of the Ottawa Tribe; Billy Friend, chief of the Wyandotte Nation, and Craig Harper, chief of the Peoria Tribe. They will discuss the 1959 termination of the Peoria, Wyandotte and Ottawa tribes of Oklahoma and the 1978 restoration of federal recognition.
The termination of tribes was a U.S. government policy enacted in the mid-20th century that ended federal supervision of native Americans and also ended the protected trust status of their lands, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. Ultimately, more than 3 million acres of tribal lands were relinquished nationwide, and many tribal members were relocated from their rural reservations to metropolitan areas.
"While some Indian families did adjust to their new urban settings, the net effect of relocation for many American Indians manifested as loss of access to traditional cultural supports, economic hardship, social disenfranchisement, overt discrimination and unemployment," the historical society says on its website. "Despite the overly positive declarations made by its supporters, in reality, termination and relocation policy wrought social havoc for Indians generally, and explicit, negative consequences for terminated tribes."
Like NEO, a growing number of cities and states around the country have begun to formally recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day on the second Monday of October, which also is a federal holiday named in recognition of Christopher Columbus. The move toward honoring native peoples reflects an effort by some to remember history more thoroughly and accurately.
"In the forefront of the minds of many native people throughout the Western Hemisphere is the fact the colonial takeovers of the Americas, starting with Columbus, led to the deaths of millions of native people and the forced assimilation of survivors," Renee Gokey and Dennis W. Zotigh, both members of native tribes, wrote last year for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. "Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes that native people are the first inhabitants of the Americas, including the lands that later became the United States of America. And it urges Americans to rethink history."