Road Trip: American Indian Heritage

Discover the rich culture and heritage of America's original people by taking a road trip into Oklahoma's American Indian Country.

Due to COVID-19 requirements and recommendations, many Oklahoma businesses and attractions have made changes to their hours of operation and available services. This may include some destinations mentioned in this article. We encourage all potential visitors to contact the business or attraction directly before visiting for up-to-date information. For Oklahoma State Health Department information and recommendations, visit the COVID-19 resource page.

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The removal corridor exhibit at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur tells story of the forced removal of the Chickasaw Nation from their southeastern homelands through multimedia experiences and interesting displays.
Photo Credit: Chickasaw Cultural Center

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Standing up for Civil Rights

In north-central Oklahoma just south of Ponca City, the tranquil 63-acre Standing Bear Park, Museum & Education Center tells the story of a courageous father, Chief Standing Bear, on a quest to bury his son’s remains in his indigenous homeland. The grounds of the park are covered with towering old trees and gentle native grasses, welcoming visitors to walking paths that 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.  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.”

In the area:

Built between 1925 and 1928, the Marland Mansion in Ponca City is the restored and preserved home of E.W. Marland, oilman and former governor of Oklahoma. Known as the “Palace on the Prairie,” the opulent 45,561-sq. ft. mansion cost $5.5 million to build at the time and features 55 rooms, including 10 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, seven fireplaces and three kitchens.

Journey to the Heart of the Chickasaw Nation

In the heart of the Chickasaw Nation lies the Chickasaw Cultural Center, located near Sulphur.  This world-class museum complex is dedicated to celebrating Chickasaw history and culture. The stunning, state-of-the-art campus utilizes interactive media and features architectural elements such as native stone, wood and copper. 

Located on 109 acres of rolling hills, woodlands and streams adjacent to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, the Center boasts an exhibit center, the Holisso Research Center, large-format theatre, amphitheater, sky terrace, traditional village and several water features. The largest tribal cultural center in the nation, the Chickasaw Cultural Center is the culmination of a long quest by the Chickasaw people to tell their stories, to preserve and record their history and culture, and to perpetuate that legacy for generations to come.

In the area:

Visitors to the nearby Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma's oldest national park area, will enjoy cool creeks flowing over travertine terraces, historic campgrounds, mineral springs and a wealth of lake activities on serene Lake of the Arbuckles.  Savor an idyllic escape while camping, swimming, boating, hiking or cycling.

Cherokee Ways

Tucked away in the Oklahoma foothills of the Ozark Mountains, the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah is located on 44 heavily wooded acres and offers visitors insights into Cherokee history and culture. The center is home to a collection of cultural experiences including Diligwa the 1710 Cherokee Village, Adams Corner Rural Village, the Trail of Tears Exhibit, the Cherokee National Museum and more. 

Tour Diligwa, a replica of a 1710 Cherokee village as it would have existed before European contact, and enjoy demonstrations that include ancient cultural practices such as flint knapping, basketry, blowguns, stickball and Cherokee marble games. Special events such as the annual Trail of Tears Art Show and annual Cherokee Homecoming Art Show offer more opportunities for cultural sharing and learning.

In the area:

Visit the Hunter's Home, an historic mansion built in 1845 by wealthy merchant George M. Murrell, who married the niece of Cherokee Chief John Ross.  The only antebellum mansion in Oklahoma, the George M. Murrell Home is a certified Trail of Tears site.  The home's beautiful grounds include an original springhouse, an 1896 smokehouse and a log cabin.  An adjacent park area offers picnic tables, a nature trail and Park Hill Creek.

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