SWOK honors native cultures on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 10:19 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - Monday is Columbus Day, a federal holiday, but it’s also Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a day to celebrate and honor Native Americans.

For many, the day brought together people from different indigenous backgrounds to celebrate the histories and cultures they share or want to learn more about.

Members of different tribes gathered at Cameron University for Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Retired Senator Anastasia Pittman taught people about Protecting the Fire and how to be part of a Healing Circle.

“We share the medicine and we teach people how to keep the fire burning by teaching them some of our traditional, custom ways. Things that are important, like language, songs, dance, customs, art, religious practices, and just how we treat one another,” Pittman said.

Pittman was the second Seminole citizen to serve on the Oklahoma state legislature and said it’s an honor for indigenous peoples to be celebrated all over the world.

“We have been self-preserved,” Pittman said. “We have been resilient through all of the changes and the trials that we’ve had from the removal era. Now we’re in self-preservation, so we are protecting our languages, protecting our lands and protecting our culture.”

Tribal leaders presented three individuals who made a difference with awards to wrap up the night.

14-year-old Julian Killsfirst won Student Ambassador of the Year.

This year, he wanted to join the JROTC program at MacArthur High School but was told he’d have to cut his braid.

Instead, Killsfirst talked to the elders in his tribe about it, who helped him research and present findings to school leaders.

He did not have to cut his hair.

“It connects us to our ancestors,” Julian said. “Our ancestors connect us to the Earth and show the warrior side of us.”

His grandfather Kristopher Killsfirst, who’s also the commander of the Kiowa Comanche Apache Indian Veterans, said he’s proud of the way his grandson handled the situation.

“He went in, he did that dialogue with those officials and it came out on a positive note. For us as elders, this is a battle that my grandson had to fight that our grandpas had already won,” Kristopher said.

He said Julian is a role model for people young and old.

“We have to make the changes by opening our voice and that dialogue, and he did that in a productive way,” Kristopher said. “Not civil disobedience but actually putting pen to paper and saying, ‘Hey, we are going to do this and I’m a Native American young man. Hear me.’”

The Lawton Indigenous Peoples’ Day Committee and Cameron University Native American Student Association partnered to host it.