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Lawton to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The City of Lawton will be recognizing Indigenous Peoples' Day, beginning this year after a decision by the City Council.

The proposal, which surfaced twice in 2017, including a council meeting in late December, won approval Tuesday to the delight of a standing-room-only audience whose members argued that Lawton should recognize North America's original inhabitants: Native Americans who also make up about 20,000 people in the city's population. But,while the proposal on the council agenda initially called for that designation to be made each year on the Friday following Thanksgiving, the council vote changed the day to the second Monday in October.

That day now is celebrated across the nation as Columbus Day, and city administrators said Wednesday the City of Lawton will observe the second Monday in October as both Indigenous Peoples' Day and Columbus Day. While the holiday is not one the City of Lawton observes (city offices do not close), Columbus Day is a federal holiday and the city doesn't have the authority to change federal holidays, city administrators and council members have said.

The proposal was brought back to the council floor by Ward 1 Councilman Robert Morford, who also cast the only "no" vote against giving the designation to Columbus Day. Morford supports the idea of giving the designation to the Friday after Thanksgiving.

The Columbus Day proposal was defended by Cornel Pewewardy, who brought the issue to the council's attention in mid-2017, but was unable to attend the council's December meeting to make the argument again. Pewewardy, a member of the Comanche Nation who is of Comanche and Kiowa descent, said the designation is important for the continent's original inhabitants, whose descendants continue to live, learn and work here. He pointed to the numerous tribal nations that make their homes in the Lawton area and Southwest Oklahoma and said many representatives of those tribes attended Tuesday's meeting to support the idea.

The Lawton Constitution

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