Learning about Oklahoma history was tremendous fun as a youngster at Taft Elementary in the mid-1990s. I still remember the day we recreated the 1893 Oklahoma Land Run. My mom sewed me a prairie-style dress with sunflowers, and I packed my lunch in a tin can: some biscuits wrapped in a handkerchief, beef jerky and a few peppermints. We lined up in the soccer field and ran to stake a claim for land when our teachers blew a whistle.
I didn’t question the significance of this activity until a few years ago. Several of my classmates were Native American. Did they line up alongside me and play the part of a white settler, displacing Indigenous people? Did they enjoy going to the Cherokee Strip Museum to learn about white homestead life on lands their ancestors were forcibly relocated to in the Trail of Tears, 50 years before the land run?
At high school football games, did they clap and cheer for the white shirtless boy dressed in moccasins and traditional headdress running across the field waving the blue Enid High flag? The headdress is a sign of honor and respect in Native American tribes, not a fashion accessory. How did they feel seeing their identity and sacred traditions being re-appropriated as a mascot?
As the Washington NFL team reviews its name, let us also reflect on our beloved Plainsmen mascot. We took their land from them and we’re continuing to take their identity and cause harm by using their sacred symbols. Indigenous people are humans, not mascots. To the Enid High School Plainsmen and the Waukomis Chiefs, it’s time to change.
Kelsey Huse, Enid High School class of 2008