A Day in Anadarko: Experience Native American History & Culture

Explore rich Native American culture, heritage and art in the thriving city of Anadarko.

More than 40 bronze busts pay tribute to acclaimed Native Americans in an outdoor section of the National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians.
Photo Credit: Lori Duckworth/Oklahoma Tourism

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Anadarko’s history is deeply rooted in rich Native American culture displayed through museums and public art expressing the city’s heritage. The city holds the impactful stories of numerous tribal nations and remains the headquarters for the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Delaware Nation, and Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, which include Keechi, Waco and Tawakoni.

Self-titled as the “Indian Captial of the Nation,” Anadarko is home to museums that recognize famous American Indians in the National Hall of Fame and honor several tribes and early settlers of the Caddo County area. Murals scattered throughout town offer insight into aspects of the Native American culture that laid the foundation for the city to thrive as it is today. Spend a morning touring museums that offer free admission, stop for lunch at a local eatery, then embark on a self-guided mural tour.

National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians

More than 40 bronze busts pay tribute to acclaimed Native Americans in an outdoor section of the National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians. In 1953, the first statue was dedicated to Delaware Indian Scout Black Beaver, marking the beginning of this impactful museum. Since its founding, outstanding individuals including Pocahontas, Sequoyah, Jim Thorpe and Geronimo have been commemorated. Skilled artists both from Anadarko and from across the country have contributed their talents to create these inspiring statues.

Walk the outdoor garden and read the plaque of each bust to learn about these individuals’ life stories and their impact locally, nationally and worldwide. In the garden, a fountain shaped like a beehive salutes Anadarko’s namesake, the Nadaco tribe, which means “bumblebee place” in the Caddo language. Tour the inside of the museum to see a detailed buffalo sculpture gifted by the Chickasaw Nation, busts of tribal chiefs and stop by the Anadarko visitor center.

Southern Plains Indian Museum

Founded in 1948, the Southern Plains Indian Museum emphasizes contemporary arts while preserving traditional cultural items from western Oklahoma tribes. See displays of clothing, shields, weapons, toys and more. The Rosemary Ellison Gallery highlights the impressive talent of contemporary Indigenous artists along with incredible pieces from the museum’s permanent collection. The gallery has displayed remarkable works by artists Eva Wolfe, John T. Shopteese and Marcus Amerman. From the permanent collection, phenomenal pieces from artists including Mildred Imach Cleghorn, Blackbear Bosin and Solomon McCombs have adorned the space. History is also preserved on the outside of the galley, as it is encased with stone masonry from old buildings in Fort Sill. After viewing displays and the gallery, be sure to stop in the gift shop to pick out a piece of handmade beadwork to remember your visit.

Anadarko Heritage Museum

Explore the history of Native American, European and African descendants who became early settlers of the Caddo County area at the Anadarko Heritage Museum. Founded in the 1930s by the Anadarko Philomathic Club, the museum got its beginnings with a single display case in the Anadarko library. The former Rock Island Depot became the museum’s permanent home in 1975.

Throughout the years, local families have furnished the museum by donating early-day antiques. Native culture is honored through artifacts, a photo archive and a unique collection of Native American dolls. Learn about national and world history from exhibits about World War I and World War II, Civil War documents and old military uniforms. Life-size recreations of an old-fashioned country store and a pioneer doctor’s office offer a glimpse into the life of early settlers.

Soda Fountain Eatery

After touring the city’s fascinating museums, settle in for lunch at the charming Soda Fountain Eatery in downtown Anadarko. Dining at the eatery is like stepping back to a simpler time. Grab a table or take a seat at the bar, reminiscent of a 1950s-era soda fountain. Don't skip ordering the soup of the day, with featured flavors that often include chicken and wild rice, baked potato, three peppercorn chowder and more. Pair the soup with a delicious sandwich, like the muffuletta, choose from the wide variety on the menu or opt to build your own.

On the lighter side, specialty salads are generously topped with fresh ingredients. Served seasonally, the strawberry pecan salad is topped with a delectable house-made poppyseed dressing. Classic garden and Caesar salads, as well as unique combinations like the almond mandarin salad, are also available. On your way out, browse merchandise and treat yourself to a delightful homemade pastry, piece of pie or slice of cake to snack on later.

Must-See Murals

To fully embrace Anadarko’s culture, touring the city’s murals is a must. An epic, indoor multi-piece canvas and four huge outdoor murals offer insight into Native American history and artifacts from the 1920s. Start your tour at the Anadarko Post Office to see “Kiowas Moving Camp,” a 16-canvas-panel work of art. Commissioned by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration in 1936, local Native American artist Stephen Mopope teamed up with artists James Auchiah and Spencer Asah of the Kiowa Six to bring this incredible piece to life. The mural, which depicts Native Americans on horseback, was represented in the Post Office Mural Forever Stamp series in 2019 and can be viewed in person at the post office during business hours.

“Native American Dancer Mural” by Kiowa artist Robert Redbird honors the Kiowa tribe with the depiction of a dancer holding an American flag. The 120-foot long “Transcending the Plains Mural” by Native American artist Huzo Paddlety features the faces of 10 members of the Kiowa tribe, warriors and the state bird, the Scissor-tailed flycatcher. The “I Believe in Anadarko Mural” by Palmer Studios features the Rock Island Depot that now houses the Anadarko Heritage Museum, a 1920s Indian brand motorcycle, historic buildings and a steam locomotive. Also by Palmer Studios, the “Space Bison” mural paints a unique scene that illustrates Native Americans, bison and tepees in space among planets and stars.

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