South Gallery (Lower Level)
Heart of Indian Country
Journey through time learning about Oklahoma’s Original Peoples and the unique History which has led to the presence of Tribes Today. Cultural Centers have been flourishing here for thousands of years in the Western and Eastern part of the land, now known as Oklahoma.
“From the far North, to the far South, from where the sun rises in the East to where it sets in the West-this has always been Indian Country. Speaking in thousands of different languages, over thousands of years, we have existed longer than any of us can remember. Hear our voices, see through our eyes, and truly connect with the Heart of Indian Country. ” - Stacey Halfmoon, Caddo, Wichita, Delaware
Origins (Time Immemorial)
Discover the ancient cultures of Oklahoma, particularly the ancestors of the Caddo, Wichita, Quapaw, and Osage. Creation stories and histories of the moundbuilding and Plains cultures convey the worldview that still remains with many Indian people today. Significant artifacts illustrate the sophisticated and vital centers of culture and commerce that existed, with many of the designs continuing in contemporary art.
“Because the Caddo came from the earth, we call her ‘ina’ or mother, and we go back to her when we die.” - Author unknown
First Nations (1400-1830)
Explore the life and culture of First Nations people prior to European contact, the extensive inter-tribal trade networks and alliances between nations and the stories and experiences recorded in pictograms, patterns and visual motifs. Discover how invented syllabaries and systems of writing express values, customs and worldviews for the next generations.
“We are an ancient people. We have old people that are a part of us that need to be recognized. That’s why we are here today-because of what our people did back then. They prayed for the seven generations to come.” - Mae Sine, Iowa
Struggle and Removals (1831-1904)
Look through the lens of ancient ceremonies, including dance and music, images, objects and stories to understand the enduring spiritual values and cultures that were maintained in spite of wars and forced removals. This time of Moving Fires references the sacred fires carried by native peoples during their forced migration from traditional homelands to Indian Territory.
“Every Tribe’s got a Trail of Tears.” - Chief Charles Enyart, Eastern Shawnee
Woven Paths (1905-1979)
Explore the powerful stories about a turbulent period in history when Native People had to navigate through new forms of government, land allotments and boarding schools - with the pressure to assimilate. Simultaneously, a cultural renaissance was taking place and can be seen in the distinctive patterns, colors and designs embedded into intricate cultural materials such as clothing, ceremonial drums, and musical instruments.
"Some people say we live in two worlds: one white, one Native. I live in one world; that of a Comanche woman. No matter where I am or who I am with, I filter everything through my Comanche values." - LaDonna Harris, Comanche
Tribes Today (1980 - Present)
Travel down a metaphorical river to appreciate how native peoples view their place in the world. "Natural Democracy", speaks to the idea that all things are connected, with no creature or human being lesser or more valuable. Witness how “Community” plays an essential role defining identity and responsibilities within the family, clan, tribe and intertribal relationships. Uncover the values and responsibilities associated with leadership and governance. Caring for the community involves different types of leaders -- including political leaders, war chiefs, peace chiefs, and ceremonial leaders. Knowledge is passed down from generation to generation in many different ways. Today's Oklahoma’s native communities continue to be rooted to the past while illuminating the future.
"How can I be anything but positive when I come from a tenacious, resilient people who keep moving forward with an eye toward the future even after enduring unspeakable hardship?” - Former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma