'Homeless in our own homeland'

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Parade celebrates culture, protests historical treatment

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - At least half of the 39 recognized American Indian tribes in Oklahoma were represented at a parade that mixed celebrations with demonstrations April 12, organizers said.

The Society to Preserve Indigenous Rights and Indigenous Traditions, or SPIRIT, hosted the event, which began at the corner of Reno and Hudson avenues and ended at the Land Run statue in Bricktown.

Along the way, drivers with tribal affiliations attached to their vehicles honked their horns and cheered while others walked with handmade signs bearing slogans such as ''Frybread Power'' and ''Dawes Commission + land run = organized theft.''

SPIRIT spokesman Brenda Golden, who organized the event, said the parade was really a way to recognize American Indian heritage, and was timed to occur before annual events re-enacting the Oklahoma Land Run happened.

''We're having our parade first because we were here before the Land Run,'' she said.

The main goal of the organization is education, she said. Members want to have a tribal spokesman on the textbook committee for Oklahoma schools and to end Land Run re-enactments, which they consider offensive.

''We can't change history, but what we can say is that we were here first and that they ran over us,'' she said.

Richard Whitman, 59, an American Indian activist and artist, brought his grandchildren with him. Their knowledge of their ancestors is his primary concern.

''History is told for us ... We're not part of the national narrative,'' he said. ''We're part of Oklahoma history.''

After reaching the Land Run statue, some stretched out on the ground under the bronzed horse hooves to symbolize how the Land Run trampled their people, Golden said.

''In some ways, we feel homeless in our own homeland,'' Whitman said.

SPIRIT members planned to deliver a signed resolution to Gov. Brad Henry April 22 about Land Run re-enactments and the depiction of America Indians in schools.

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