'Everybody wants to be an Indian now'
DURANT, Okla. (KTEN) — Several speakers discussed the importance of Native American history and how it relates to modern day at the 14th biennial Native American Symposium at Southeastern Oklahoma State University on Friday.
"It's just that we're not conscious of our own American history, and we should be," said Cherokee-Choctaw artist Poteet Victory, who delivered the keynote address. "Back in the 50s and 60s, nobody wanted to have any association. But now, everybody's, 'Well, I'm part so-and-so... I have a little bit of Cherokee or something,' you know, so it's changed a lot. It's changed a lot. The discrimination's not there; everybody wants to be an Indian now."
Southeastern is always thrilled to hold this event, to help teach its students and the public about those historic moments.
"About one-third approximately of our student population is Native American, so it's a big, important dynamic for our institution" said Dr. Mark Shield, SOSU Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs.
A participant from Germany demonstrated the musical importance of Native American culture. Victory noted that he has been honored to have several of his works displayed at SOSU's Semple Family Museum.
"See anything on social media, or anywhere a picture or anything that mentions the Trail of Tears... put it up, get it in people's minds," said Victory, who remembers a time when people discriminated against indigenous people.
"Great-grandfather witnessed his parents being killed by white people," said Victory. "And he swore off."
This heartbreak has been passed down for generations.
"They'd go, 'You know, this happened in my country, too.' Every one of them, no matter where they were in the world, would say that very thing," Victory said.
"Unfortunately, that's something we see even today in the news," said Dr. Shield. "So I think just having those themes brought to the forefront is what's important."