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It’s time to stop celebrating 89er Day, Oklahoma

Oklahoma Landrun

In the fourth grade, I had a Radio Flyer wagon that my parents helped me turn into a covered wagon. Dressed in a bonnet and skirt, me and a group of fellow classmates lined up on the playground. The principal blew a whistle and we were off recreating the Oklahoma Land Run. None of us really asked why. In fact, it wasn't actually a choice. It was something we did like long division or the twice-weekly P.E. class. If there was a choice, it wasn't articulated to fourth grade Marisa.

It's kind of odd that my academic career started with me re-enacting land thievery, and ended with my tribe helping me pay my tuition. (Shout out to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Without you guys, I probably never would've gone to grad school!)

I think the majority of people don't think about why we do things and what events our traditions commemorate. This is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the simplification of history into a feel good narrative. We're all adults, and understand history is complex. We owe it to ourselves as Oklahomans to tell the full story -- that is, the story of those who participated in the Land Run, and the story of those who were displaced by it. It's ridiculous that we, as a state, can proudly proclaim our Native American heritage in one breath, and sweep it under the rug in the next.

A group named "Unsettling Oklahoma" is currently sponsoring a letter writing and/or e-mail campaign to the 89er Day Parade Committee and City Council Members of Norman. If you're interested in participating, or finding out how to organize this sort of campaign in your city, you can look here.

I'm well aware that there are many other institutions in the state of Oklahoma that completely disregard Native American historical truths. But I'm also aware that we can't conquer all these injustices at once. And I know that it becomes easier to right these wrongs when you start with little steps. So, stopping the 89er Day parade in Norman is a good first step.

I know that some readers will come at me with the ol' "why does it matter" and "we've always done it, get over it" arguments. And to those readers, I say grow up. 89er Day is a crap holiday. I'm not asking you to stop celebrating Christmas. I'm asking you to stop inaccurately portraying a very niche historical event. You can still watch Far and Away if you want. I ain't about to take your DVDs or nothing. But for a city to organize an even to commemorate an event that negatively affected multiple cultural groups is just plain weird.

And if you're still not convinced, that's totally fine. Just know that you officially have to stop telling people you're descended from a Cherokee princess who was too proud to put her name on the tribal rolls. You don't get to keep that lie if you want to keep 89er Day.

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