'It Has Been A Long Journey': American Indian Cultural Center Construction Resumes

Tuesday, April 16th 2019, 5:52 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

It's been a long, long time coming but construction has finally resumed on the American Indian Cultural Center. Work on the museum came to halt seven years ago after the state ran out of money. 

To give you an idea how long it's been to get to this point, the museum was originally designed with phone booths in it. 

The museum's mission to tell the story of Oklahoma's 39 tribes remains the same but the building's plans have been altered a bit with time. The main level will now include a full-service restaurant, featuring award winning Native American chefs with food sourced directly from the tribes.

“I don’t know how anybody can experience a culture without experiencing the food of that culture,” said CEO/Director James Pepper Henry.

The basement is being reconfigured with security and climate control to house and prepare exhibits.

“When we first started the cultural center so many years ago, we didn’t envision that we would be a collecting institution. But so many people have come forward wanting to donate collections,” explained Pepper  

The exhibits will now also include artifacts on long term loan from the Smithsonian that were originally collected from Oklahoma tribes 100 years ago.

“This is going to a really powerful experience when our tribal people welcome those cultural materials back for the first time,” said Shoshana Wasserman the museum’s Associate Director.   

After years of tribal consultation, symbolism is embedded in almost every corner of the project. But perhaps the biggest unintended representation is the struggle to get here.

“It has been a long journey, but you know that is also reflective of our histories. Our histories as native peoples have not always been easy,” said Wasserman.

The museum is slated to open in spring of 2021.