Remote Control: National American Indian Heritage Month

10 minutes
Remote Control is the weekly blog for Oklahoma Today fall intern Abigail Hall. Check back each week as she discusses her work-from-home experience.
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In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved November as National American Indian Heritage Month. In honor of this month-long celebration of the First Americans, I've collected a list of local in-person and virtual exhibits and educational opportunities that dive into the stories of Native American tribes in Oklahoma.

Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center in Shawnee. Photo by Garrett Fisbeck/CPN

Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center in Shawnee. Photo by Garrett Fisbeck/CPN

Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center

Shawnee’s Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center offers an in-depth look into the history of the early Potawatomi people through its museum, archival collections, research library, language resources, and gift shop that sells work from Native American artists and makers ranging from prints to apparel and handmade jewelry.

On the Heritage Center’s website, you can learn about the early days of the Potawatomi and other Neshnabe peoples and their written histories ranging from the colonial period to the Twentieth Century and beyond. Additionally, in honor of November as National American Indian Heritage Month, the center is offering free shipping on gift shop orders over $30 all month long, so if you’re looking for unique, locally crafted, or Native-inspired Christmas gifts, head on over to potawatomigifts.com. Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center. Admission, Free. (405) 878-5830 or potawatomiheritage.com.

Red Earth Art Center

Oklahoma City’s Red Earth Art Center promotes the traditions of American Indian arts and cultures and hosts a permanent collection of Native fine art, pottery, basketry, textiles, and bead work. While the center is currently temporarily closed until 2021 when it will re-open in downtown Oklahoma City’s new BancFirst tower, the organization offers a range of interactive activities on its website to educate the community in Native history and contributions.

The center’s Newspaper in Education series offers a deeper understanding of tribal cultures through learning more about the history of The Guardian statue atop the State Capitol, details on the history of Native influences on the state flag, a history of corn as a staple for indigenous cultures, and a printable booklet about Native American contributions over the past century, which was prepared as part of Native Heritage Month. The center also provides suggested activities in response to the online lessons and education it provides.

To participate in the lessons and activities in Red Earth Art Center’s Heritage Month booklet, you can view or print it out here. Red Earth Art Center. (405) 427-5228 or redearth.org. (No admission available since it is closed currently)

Comanche National Musuem and Cultural Center in Lawton. Photo by Lori Duckworth

Comanche National Musuem and Cultural Center in Lawton. Photo by Lori Duckworth

Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center

Lawton’s Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center provides insight into the history and culture of Comanche Nation, or “Lords of the Plains” as the Comanche people were known in the early days, the largest American Indian tribe in the Lawton-Fort Sill area.

The museum is currently open to the public and offers permanent exhibits covering the history of the Comanche people and the Nʉmʉnʉʉ language, accounts of the seventeen Comanche men who served as “Code Breakers” during World War II, and the role of religion within Comanche culture. Additionally, on display is the museum’s award-winning interactive exhibit, Tasiwooʔa ʉ Wʉtokwenʉ (Buffalo Kill Using a Weapon), where visitors play a virtual game to learn about Comanche culture and hunting buffalo.

For those interested in learning more without leaving the comfort of home, the museum also offers an online art gallery and virtual tours of its four permanent exhibits—History and Culture, Fort Sill Indian School, Code Talkers, and the Native American Church. Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center. Admission, Free. (580) 353-0404 or comanchemuseum.com.

Inside the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. Photo by Lori Duckworth

Inside the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. Photo by Lori Duckworth

Gilcrease Museum

Tulsa’s Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, or the Gilcrease Museum, provides a comprehensive collection of the art, culture, and history of North America. The museum, founded in 1949 by Thomas Gilcrease, a Citizen of Muscogee Creek Nation, includes exhibits focused on Indigenous cultures across North and South America, such as its current temporary exhibit, Weaving History into Art: The Enduring Legacy of Shan Goshorn.

The exhibit features the work of Shan Goshorn (1957-2018), an Eastern Band Cherokee artist internationally recognized for using traditional Cherokee techniques to create historical and cultural commentary on Native American issues in the twenty-first century, and works from four Native American woman artists inspired by her legacy—Carol Emarthle-Douglas of Northern Arapaho Tribe and Seminole Nation, Anita Fields of Osage Nation and Muscogee Creek Nation, Lisa Rutherford of Cherokee Nation, and Holly Wilson of Delaware and Cherokee Nation.

For those who can’t make it to the exhibit in person, the museum offers an opportunity to experience the exhibition from home with the exhibition catalogue with information and images of each piece featured. That catalogue can be purchased online or in the Gilcrease Shop. Virtual participants can also view a short film from FireThief productions about the legacy of Shan Goshorn with an interview with film director Sterlin Harjo and the museum’s curator of history Mark Dolph on the museum’s website.

The exhibit will be on display until March 28, 2021. Museum members receive free daily admission, as well as Oklahoma K-12 teachers, students, faculty, and staff of Tulsa universities and colleges, veterans and active-duty military, and minors 17 and under. Students of non-Tulsa colleges receive $5 admission, seniors over 62 receive $6 admission, and adults receive $8 admission.

In-person visitors are asked to schedule visits online for a specific date and time, be patient and abide by six-foot social distancing practices on museum grounds, and all adults and children over age 6 are required to wear masks. Gilcrease Museum. Admission, Free-$8. (918) 596-2700 or gilcrease.org.

Choctaw Nation Capitol Museum in Durant. Photo by Lori Duckworth

Choctaw Nation Capitol Museum in Durant. Photo by Lori Duckworth

Choctaw Nation Capitol Museum

Durant’s Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Cultural Services houses the Choctaw Nation’s Capitol Museum on the Tvshka Homma grounds between Clayton and Talihina, which features displays on Choctaw history from before European contact, to the Trail of Tears and Choctaw life and customs in Oklahoma. The museum structure was built in 1884 and served as the Capitol of Choctaw Nation until 1907 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The museum is currently open to the public Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with free admission. Additionally, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Cultural Services offers classes in Choctaw traditional arts such as pottery, basketry, traditional bow shooting or archery, dress making, and traditional textiles. Each class varies in location and local organizers and updated class details can be viewed here. Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Capitol Museum. Admission, Free. (918) 569-4465 or choctawnationculture.com.

Written By
Abigail Hall

Abigail Hall is Oklahoma Today's fall editorial intern.

Abigail Hall
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