OKCPS bans land run reenactments
OKLAHOMA CITY – It looks like students in Oklahoma City schools have performed their last land grab following the Oklahoma City Public Schools board’s decision in December to ban reenactments of the Oklahoma Land Run.
For years, many state schools have reenacted the Oklahoma Land Run of April 22, 1889, with students playing the roles of settlers staking claims to land. However, reenactments will no longer be allowed in the OKCPS district.
According to reports, in late November when White House representatives toured Oklahoma City to understand what it’s like to be a Native American student in OKCPS, they found that land run reenactments can be a source of anger and confusion for some students.
“The White House was here, conducting a series of discussions on Native American issues,” Rob Neu, OKCPS superintendent, said. He said that caused them to conduct a survey across the district to see how many teachers still used the reenactment. “We found one classroom. So, it was not something that was embedded in the curriculum, and we found one classroom that was participating in it.”
Native American parents in the school district have tried to stop the reenactments for years.
“These land run reenactments celebrate a really tough time in Native culture. We feel like it celebrates genocide,” Sarah Adams-Cornell, with the OKCPS Native American Parent Service Committee, said.
“We hope that they absolutely learn about it. They need to learn about it. But celebrating it with reenactments is a totally different issue.”
She said they are working on a pilot project for schools that would be called Oklahoma History Day.
Oklahoma City schools have now written it into their curriculum that state history will be taught without the reenactments.
District officials said schools would continue teaching the land run as part of Oklahoma history, showing the Native American, immigrant and settler perspectives.
According to Oklahoma State University’s digital library, the land run occurred after President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed 2 million acres of Indian Territory open for settlement. Under the provisions of the Homestead Act of 1862, a legal settler could claim 160 acres of public land, and those who lived on and improved the claim for five years could receive title.
These Unassigned Lands, left vacant in the post-Civil War effort to create reservations for Plains Indians and other tribes, were considered some of the best unoccupied public land in the nation. The surrounding tribal-owned lands included the Cherokee Outlet on the north, bordering Kansas; the Iowa, Kickapoo, and Pottawatomie reservations on the east; and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation on the west. These, too, would later be opened to settlement. To the south lay the Chickasaw Nation.
By setting the stage for non-Indian settlement of other sections of Indian Territory, the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889 led to the creation of Oklahoma Territory under the Organic Act of 1890 and ultimately to formation of the 46th state, Oklahoma, in 1907.