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News > Press Releases > Press Release

Press Release

Release Date: May 20, 2008

by Dana Lance



The Chickasaw Cultural Center will provide a place for Chickasaw citizens to learn more about themselves, and the public to learn more about the Chickasaw Nation.

The Cultural Center, located near Sulphur, Okla., is scheduled to open in 2009. Planning and designing the facility has involved the entire Chickasaw Nation for several years, and is continues full force today.

"At least eight of the 16 divisions (of the Chickasaw Nation) are working to make the Cultural Center happen," Dr. Amanda Cobb-Greetham, administrator of the tribal Division of History, Research and Scholarship, said recently.

Those tribal divisions, she said, range from Treasury to Housing and Tribal Development, Facilities and Communications.

"Notable resources from every place are going toward making this happen. It's a Chickasaw citizen cultural center."

More than 1,200 tribal citizens responded to an October 2000 survey, which asked for comments and suggestions on a Chickasaw Culture Center. Language, beliefs, ceremonies and customs were at the top of the list on those surveys, with tribal history following closely. Art and music, food and medicine, prominent Chickasaw men and women, and a living village with traditional dwellings were also mentioned by survey respondents.

Building upon citizen requests, the Cultural Center will utilize live performances, high technology multimedia exhibits, and galleries as well as natural outdoor spaces to tell the Chickasaw story and preserve tribal culture for future generations.

Upon opening, four building with a total of 96,000 square feet, will be located on the campus of the Cultural Center. These facilities include an Exhibit Center, the Holisso Center, a large-format theater, and an administration building.

An amphitheater, sky terrace, and a traditional village, along with several water features are planned for the grounds of the Cultural Center.

Inside the Exhibit Center, an 18th century Council House will serve as an orientation theater. The Council House will be more than 60 feet wide and will look similar to the buildings constructed in Chickasaw villages long before European contact in 1540. Council houses were commonly used until the removal of Chickasaws from their homelands in the 1830s. Its construction, Gov. Bill Anoatubby said, is one example of the effort to be faithful to the culture and heritage of the Chickasaw people in this facility. "Great pains are being taken to ensure this world-class center will help preserve Chickasaw history and traditions for generations to come," the Governor said.

After a 20-minute film inside the Council House, the projection screen rises and visitors will walk beneath a rock ledge and over a stream into the Spirit Forest.

This experience will include clan animals, along with an audio explanation of how the different animals relate to the Chickasaw people. The presence of little people will be felt, although they are not seen.

The story of the ancient ancestors, mounds and artifacts and the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations' split are told in a separate gallery, and a variety of language learning stations are planned for the Exhibit Center.

The interactive removal area will be a "compelling media experience", said Josh Hinson, Director of Chickasaw Studies for the tribes Division of History and Culture.

Visitors will experience the removal from the homelands to Indian Territory in a long corridor. The area will be lined with projection screens, and sculpture of animals, people and vehicles. Changes in light will simulate the changing seasons and will re-create a moment in time during removal.

A rear-screen projection on the ceiling of the sky and natural elements move to give the impression you are walking through scorching sun, driving rain and softly falling snow from the woodlands of the homeland to the prairie of Indian Territory.

The journey will also include a glimpse into 1855 with a Dawes train exhibit and conclude with the state of the Chickasaw Nation today. Ever changing exhibits will be showcased in this area, said Hinson.

Visitors will also experience a stomp dance exhibit before returning to the main lobby of the Exhibit Center.

Throughout the center, visitors will be encouraged to explore important aspects of Chickasaw life, including nature, spirituality, family, valor, learning and law through a variety of multimedia presentations as well as human storytellers and guides.

A large-format movie theater will feature a 40 by 60 foot screen and seat 300 viewers, and serve as a venue to tell the Chickasaw story.

"The theater will play an important part in the overall experience," said Hinson.

The Holisso Center will house an extensive genealogy collections, photo archives and historic papers and serve as a center for all citizens to research their lineage.

The Chickasaw Cultural Center is also designed to be a clearinghouse for study, scholarship and research of Chickasaws, Southeastern tribal culture and history.

The study center will be the premier facility for Chickasaw research, as well as overall Southeastern cultural study. Benefits of the study center will be the expansion in the number of Native scholars, as well as an increase of knowledge among visitors, both Chickasaw and non-Chickasaw.

Sharing the Chickasaw story is not limited to the indoors. Outdoor spaces will feature rich native vegetation, indigenous stone and trails, all situated near a pond and Rock Creek.

The Amphitheater will serve as a stage for groups such as the Living History Players, Dr. Cobb-Greetham said, and other events such as concerts, storytelling and intertribal dances.

"It will be a venue for all," she said.

Other outdoor areas will include demonstration gardens and a traditional life ways educational village featuring a number of traditional Chickasaw houses similar to those at Kullihoma. Areas will also be set aside for stomp dance and other traditional ceremonies.

"The key to the traditional village and the Culture Center is not just to see things, but to do things," said Dr. Cobb-Greetham.

A skywalk pavilion will offer visitors a place to reflect and view the traditional village.

"It is going to be sort of the hub of all of our activities in a lot of ways. Even though we will continue to have, of course, sites in Tishomingo and Mississippi," Dr. Cobb-Greetham said.

For more information on the tribal Division of History, Research and Scholarship, the Chickasaw Cultural Center and the Center for the Study of Chickasaw History and Culture, log on to www.chickasaw.net/cnculture.