Indigenous Allyship dinner establishes appetite for positive dialogue

OklahomaEventsEducationCommunity Indigenous
Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 01/11/2024, 3:29 PM
Edited: 01/13/2024, 4:16 AM

(TULSA, Okla.) When VNN and Osage News teamed up with several other organizations to hold an “Exploring Indigenous Allyship” community dinner and discussion at Philbrook last fall, the goal was to simply start conversations about conversations. 

With the second largest American Indian population in the United States, Oklahoma’s municipal, state and tribal governments are tasked with working together for their people, many of whom fall under multiple jurisdictions. 

Following the McGirt ruling in 2020, which confirmed most of Eastern Oklahoma was reservation land, Indigenous issues have not only become a political weapon but an increasingly volatile topic. 

While it is clear there is much to discuss, the path where Natives and non-Natives meet remains largely obscured. Thanks to intentional civic dialogue at November’s fully booked discussion, community members are working together to draw a map. 

Philbrook’s Susan Green kicked off the night with a land acknowledgement and acknowledgement of the property’s original allottee. During dinner prepared by Cherokee-citizen-owned Provision Pantry, VNN’s Brittany Harlow, Osage News’s Shannon Shaw Duty, Lucinda Hickory Research Institute's Tatianna Duncan, and American Indian Chamber of Commerce’s Susan Dean spoke about past and present challenges and successes of both Indigenous people and Indigenous allyship. 

The event was assisted with resources from the National Institute for Civil Discourse and Canada’s Indigenous Allyship movement. 

Following dinner, attendees broke into small groups to talk about different components of Indigenous Allyship and their thoughts on best practices. 

Here are the key takeaways from those groups: 

-Defining allyship is important. What makes one an ally? How does one earn trust?

-More education about sovereignty is needed. 

-Cross deputization issues need to be ironed out, especially in the rural communities. 

-There needs to be more information about the tribal impacts on the state.

-Initial ignorance of Indigenous issues is to be expected and should be used as an opportunity to educate while remaining as calm as possible.

-A good ally is one who is informed and asks questions. 

-More intertribal allyship is needed.

-Current health issues need to be better addressed amongst Indigenous people, particularly relating to generational trauma. More support should be offered to advocates of these issues. 

-There are too many knowledge gaps relating to Indigenous issues and not enough teachers. 

-Native children are being forgotten and there needs to be more done to take care of them. 

-Indigenous people should also learn to be their own best ally, recognizing that the “good ol’ boy system” exists.

-There needs to be more resources for Indigenous business owners, including tribal support. 

-The difference between Native-owned and Tribal-owned needs to be more understood, and nations should be learning more from one another. 

-Mixed families have unique challenges when advocating for Indigenous culture, especially those families who have lost connection to culture through assimilation. 

Participants were also asked to take part in a post-event survey, to learn more about their thoughts on Indigenous Allyship discussion and future programming. 

Those who took the survey listed various reasons for attending the event, including the desire to learn how to be an ally and wanting to connect with others facing similar challenges. 

One participant said their favorite part was the “let's work together for the benefit of everyone" attitude. Another said “Having different conversations with new people and learning more about a community that plays an integral part in the state I live in”.

A majority of survey responses stated they had never been to an event like this before. 

Nearly 80 percent said they were members or tribes or had tribal descent. The tribes listed were Cherokee, Choctaw, Kiowa, Osage, Seminole Nation, and United Keetoowah Band. 

All survey respondents said they felt comfortable or very comfortable discussing Indigenous issues during the event. 

92.3 percent said they left the event with a better understanding of how to foster Indigenous Allyship. 

100 percent of survey respondents said the event gave them a better understanding of the issues facing Indigenous people in Oklahoma. 

Survey respondents also shared additional ideas about how they think Indigenous Allyship could be fostered in the future. Those ideas included: 

-Revitalizing lost connections from Natives being torn from their culture.

-Helping future generations connect with their Native culture.

-A larger attendance of non-Indigenous people.

To explore more Indigenous Allyship resources, visit 


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