Significance of Water, Wind, Fire and Earth

Enjoy an intimate connection with the natural environment as earth, wind, water and fire are integrated into your total experience, from arrival along the Oklahoma River to your ascension to the top of the promontory mound. This interwoven connection to the environment reflects the respect Native peoples have for nature as a connected whole.

“Listen to the wind songs and hear our ancestors whisper in the leaves of the trees,
gallop across a thundering sky, weep in the waves of the ocean, laugh down a trickling stream
and sing from the twinkling stars that have long since lived but still burn bright in the night." - Russ Tall Chief, Osage

Learn why water plays such a significant role in ceremonial life. It is often used for regeneration and renewal because of its healing powers, or served before a meal or ceremonial activities begin for cleansing purposes. Native Peoples have lived along waterways for thousands of years, so The Center is positioned along the Oklahoma River, and the restored natural landscapes of river and wetlands are celebrated in the outdoor museum experience.

Distinguish why Native peoples acknowledge the four directions. The wind carries with it the spirit of natural environments and produces a sound comparable to breath, language and song. The Courtyard of the Wind is a welcoming space honoring the wind and introduces the 12 language families present amongst the tribes in Oklahoma today. It also serves as a map indicating where each of the tribal headquarters are located in Oklahoma today.

Develop a deeper respect for the importance that fire maintains in native communities. Fire has a point of beginning which must be nurtured and stoked from smoldering embers to blazing flames. Specific tribal members are selected as "Fire Keepers" to sustain the life of the fire. When the fire diffuses it completes its life cycle. “Moving Fires” refers to the journey Native peoples made from original homelands and the struggles involved in rebuilding each nation’s home in Indian Territory.

Interact with earthen architectural features like the Promontory Mound which take inspiration from mound building cultures. The Spiro Mounds in eastern Oklahoma date back to around 500 A.D. and are considered one of the most important archaeological discoveries in North America. Thirty of the Thirty Nine tribes in Oklahoma today are descendants of the mound building cultures.