The city of Tulsa's fourth annual Native American Day was held remotely Monday due to the coronavirus pandemic, with streaming performances, speeches, presentations and even a virtual vendors' market.
"Four years ago, the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission, Mayor [G.T] Bynum and the city council made a commitment to celebrate and recognize Native America Day each year on the second Monday of each October," said Matt Roberts, the event's emcee. "We appreciate Mayor Bynum's progressive and inclusive leadership."
"The reality is [that] Tulsa would not exist if it weren't for our Native American tribes," Bynum said in a video from Tulsa City Hall. "In fact, the resilience that you see, in the last year especially, that is such a key aspect of our character as a city really started with the Native Americans who founded our city in the 19th century."
Krystal Reyes, Tulsa's chief resilience officer, read a land acknowledgement.
"I ask you to join me in acknowledging the Native American communities gathered virtually here today, their elders both past and present, as well as future generations," Reyes said. "Oklahoma, formerly known as Indian Territory, is home to 39 federally recognized Native American tribes. The city of Tulsa is within the tribal boundaries of three of these tribes: the Cherokee Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and Osage Nation.
"The City of Tulsa also acknowledges that it was founded upon exclusions and erasures of Indigenous peoples, and this acknowledgement demonstrates a commitment to dismantle the ongoing legacies of settler-colonialism and to build a resilient city that honors all who live and have lived on this land."
"In this virtual setting, there are a few advantages," said Roberts. "In a traditional setting, we would be here in Tulsa at the Guthrie Green, but now we're able to hear from tribal leaders all across the state."
Leaders of five tribes -- Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Cherokee Nation, Osage Nation, Pawnee Nation, and Chickasaw Nation -- gave virtual addresses around the theme "Protect the Sacred."
"Many things are sacred to Indigenous peoples here in Oklahoma, across the nation, and in the world today," said Walter Echo-Hawk, president of the Pawnee Nation Business Council. "But to me, the most sacred of all rights to people around the world is the right of self-determination. All peoples around the world enjoy their right to self-government and the right to determine their own destinies."
Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby stressed collaboration between Indian nations, as well as partnerships between tribes and local, state and federal governments.
"We often say a rising tide raises all ships, and we truly believe tribal success is for the good of all Oklahomans," said Anoatubby. "This is a momentous occasion celebrating people from all walks of life. We are people with different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. We are people of different communities and cities across our state.
"We're from different tribes, but today we celebrate our collective heritage."