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  Photo: Lisha Newman 
Traditional American Indian regalia is worn by dancers at the Standing Bear Powwow in Ponca City.

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Oklahoma has a rich and varied American Indian culture.

Step into Oklahoma’s Indian Country and enter a world that moves to a different rhythm, where the quiet sway of ancient wisdom and modern-day renaissance is woven through the stories you hear and the cultures you’ll experience. You’ll discover that each of Oklahoma's tribes has a unique and complex character that transcends time. American Indian culture is alive and well in Oklahoma, Native America.

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, Cheyenne

Nestled beneath beautiful red hills near Cheyenne in western Oklahoma, the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site is one of three sites in Oklahoma administered by the National Park Service. The visitor center interprets the tragic circumstances of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s surprise dawn attack against the Southern Cheyenne village of Peace Chief Black Kettle on November 27, 1868.

An impressive film, “Destiny at Dawn – Loss and Victory on the Washita,” along with exhibits and an interpretative walking trail not far from the visitor center, commemorate one of the most significant events in the tragic clash of cultures during the Indian Wars era.

As Lisa Conard Frost, Washita Battlefield superintendent explains “Our national parks belong to all of us. They teach us much about who we are and how events shape us. What we learn here can take us into the future.”

Cherokee Heritage Center, Tahlequah

And there is much to learn in Oklahoma about North America’s original people. Across the state in eastern Oklahoma, the Cherokee Heritage Center, south of Tahlequah, permanently houses the “Trail of Tears” exhibit, staged in six galleries, and explores the tragic, forced removal of Cherokee ancestors from their indigenous lands in the southeastern U.S. to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

Other sites at the center include Diligwa, a 1710 Cherokee Village that provides a glimpse of what life was like in a Cherokee village before European contact; the Cherokee National Museum; Adams Corner; and special exhibits and events.

Standing Bear Park, Museum & Education Center, Ponca City

In north central Oklahoma, just south of Ponca City, the tranquil 63-acre Standing Bear Park, with towering old trees and gentle native grasses welcomes visitors. Walking paths weave among six tribal viewing courts, a small museum and a magnificent 22-foot bronze statue of Ponca tribal leader Chief Standing Bear. The touching story of Standing Bear’s plea in an 1879 U.S. court of law to be recognized as a person and a citizen gracefully unfolds here.           

Step into Oklahoma’s Indian Country and enter a world that moves to a different rhythm, where the quiet sway of ancient wisdom and modern-day renaissance is woven through the stories you hear and the cultures you’ll experience.

At his trial, Standing Bear uttered this now famous quote, which still resonates today: “This hand is not the same color as yours but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. I am a man. The same God made us both.”

The inter-tribal Standing Bear Powwow takes place adjacent to the park the last Friday and Saturday of each September, with native music, dances and foods. All are welcome.

Chickasaw Cultural Center, Sulphur

Located in southeast Oklahoma, the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur brings together Chickasaw history and culture in a world-class museum complex. Begin your journey with a 20-minute HD film in an 18th century-style council house. After the screen rises, guests will be led underneath to the Spirit Forest where exhibits of mounds and artifacts are displayed. The 96,000 sq. ft. indoor complex also documents the Chickasaw removal to Indian Territory with a corridor of changing lights to represent the changing of seasons. Explore the traditional village complete with Chickasaw dwellings while interacting with demonstrators to learn about various aspects of Chickasaw life including spirituality and family life. The on-site Aaimpa Cafe will expose visitors to traditional Chickasaw fare like grape dumplings and pashofa.

Choctaw Nation Museum, Tuskahoma

Tuskahoma, known in Choctaw language as Tushka Homma, is tucked away in the lovely Fourche Mountains of southeast Oklahoma. The town is home to the stately, restored Choctaw Nation Museum, erected in 1884 as the capitol building of the Choctaw Nation, and now a museum filled with Choctaw art, exhibits and artifacts, as well as a gift store. Of particularly poignancy is the heartbreaking story of Choctaw removal from native lands (in what is now Mississippi), carefully reconstructed through exhibits.

Seminole Nation Museum, Wewoka

In Wewoka, you’ll find remarkable history at the Seminole Nation Museum, which preserves and shares the history, culture and heritage of the Seminole Nation, from its origins in the state of Florida, to the tribe’s removal from their home lands in the 1830s, to the present. Along with exhibits, the museum features vivid Seminole artwork, and visitors are welcome to take part in craft lessons and other hands-on learning about the Seminole culture.

Oklahoma History Center, Oklahoma City

In Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma History Center’s Native American exhibits serve as a bridge between the past and the present, with artifacts, tribal music and oral histories from many of the 67 tribes that have called Oklahoma home.

Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, Spiro

As the only prehistoric Native American archaeological site in Oklahoma open to the public, and with its 12 mounds, Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center near Spiro is among the nation’s most significant archaeological sites. Located in the far eastern edge of the state, this Native American treasure highlights the archeological remains of a flourishing, sophisticated center of civilization that existed prior to the arrival of Europeans.

Other American Indian Cultural Sites in Oklahoma

Other American Indian cultural sites to consider visiting in Oklahoma include the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center in Shawnee; the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko; the Five Civilized Tribes and Ataloa Lodge museums in Muskogee; and the Museum of the Great Plains and the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center, both in Lawton. There's more vibrant American Indian culture to discover in Oklahoma including attractions, powwows, living history events, Native American craft shopping experiences.