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Oklahoma Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

On Nov. 1, Native American Heritage Month officially begins. In addition to highlighting Native Americans and their culture, the month offers an opportunity to raise awareness for Indigenous heritage and current native challenges.

National Native American Heritage Month, as it is officially known, is the result of a centuries-long effort to acknowledge Indigenous peoples’ significant contributions.

Across the country, historic sites help tell the tales of native people. Many document the earliest people’s arrival to the continent up until the development of various tribal nations.

Here in Oklahoma, the First Americans Museum emphasizes the significance of commemorating history.

Workers at the First Americans Museum stressed the importance of remembering the history of this month, particularly for Oklahoma’s 39 tribal nations.

Ace Greenwood, who works as a cultural ambassador for the First Americans Museum, said there are still people who think Native American history is a legend and a fairytale. He highlighted how significant the museum being dedicated to showcasing the history of Native Americans and the differences among the 39 tribes truly is. 

“Each tribe has their own stories, each one has their history, which is why it’s so essential because here, we have the opportunity to collect all of those stories,” Greenwood said. 

The Chickasaw Nation, one of Oklahoma’s tribes, broke ground for the Okana resort and indoor waterpark right next to the First American Museum. 

Bill Anoatubby, Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, said the feature is family focused and is something the people of Oklahoma need. 

“It’s a significant day for us,” Anoatubby said. “We’ve been thinking about it and dreaming about it for years. After the First Americans Museum was finished, it was time for us to undertake this, and everything fell into place.”

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt applauded the Chickasaw Nation’s efforts, saying they might help Oklahoma City establish its status as the national capital for tribal, Indigenous and Native people.

“Where in the country is there a half-billion-dollar investment in Native and Indigenous culture and history?” Holt stated. “There is nothing like it anywhere in the world.”

Also, the Oklahoma City Thunder has various community and in-game events scheduled to recognize Oklahoma’s diverse and influential Native American communities.

In November, a coupon for two free tickets to a Thunder home game will be given to First Americans Museum visitors. On Nov. 2, the Thunder will additionally sponsor a museum tour for the cross-country team from Riverside Indian School.

On Nov. 5, Thunder Youth Basketball will host an all-native basketball clinic for children aged nine to fourteen at Okemah High School in partnership with the Okemah Public Schools Indian Education Program and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. A second camp will be held on Nov. 22.

The Thunder will present Indian Education Student Day and Native American Heritage Night at the Paycom Center on Wednesday, Nov. 30. Throughout the day, selected kids from across the state will take part in presentations, concourse activations and earn a ticket to the game that evening.

Natasha Stamper, vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said, “The Thunder is happy to honor the rich tradition of Native American people and culture in Oklahoma.”

“We want to constantly teach, honor and establish relationships with those around us, not just during this particular month, but all year,” Stamper said. “It is about more than just learning how historic events have influenced our landscape; it is about how we can continue to honor the traditions and develop methods for those traditions to be present in the next generation.”

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