A former chairman of the Kiowa tribe said that Native Americans often have been overlooked in American history.
Billy Evans Horse, a Kiowa from Carnegie, Okla., expressed concern that there is no official federal holiday to recognize the contributions American Indians have made to the United States.
Many states today are celebrating American Indian Day, which was originated in 1912 by Arthur Parker, director of the Rochester Museum in New York. But Horse said a federal holiday such as Columbus Day still does not exist for Native Americans.
"Nowhere do I see anything officially proclaimed by Congress that there is an American Indian Day in the United States of America," Horse said this morning at Haskell Indian Junior College.
Horse said it is ironic that the country celebrates Columbus Day when "the Native Americans, as you've heard many times before, were here first."
Horse, who was raised by his grandparents, urged Haskell students to value their culture. He also told them to strive toward excellence, saying that education is "one of the greatest opportunities" of their lives.
"You can choose your future," Horse said. "You can be anything you want to be, believe it or not. Don't let the United States government tell you you can't."
After Horse's presentation, Shawn Braun, Haskell student body president, officially proclaimed today as American Indian Day.
The proclamation said that "the cultural contributions of American Indians in music, art, literature, music, architecture, language, politics, history, athletics, science, engineering and medicine have been profound and deserve recognition and examination."
Braun, a Cherokee, also said that Haskell students, faculty and staff "desire to rectify the vague, fragmentary and stereotyped image of American Indians." In closing, Braun called for the community to celebrate American Indian Day with activities to "promote brotherhood and understanding."
The celebration of American Indian Day at Haskell continues tonight with a Parade of Nations at 6 p.m. and a powwow at 7 p.m. in Coffin Sports Complex.