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8 Ways You Can Celebrate Native American Day in Tulsa

A total of 67 Native American nations have called Oklahoma home, many of which resided in what was formerly known as Indian Territory, a region comprising Tulsa and surrounding areas before Tulsa (or even Oklahoma) was a thought. Out of proximity, and more pertinently, a long, shared history of both triumph and tragedy would develop a collective identity for ‘Oklahoma Indians’. And while the causal effects of tragedies like the Indian Removal Act of 1830 still reverberate today, triumphs like the City of Tulsa formally recognizing the second Monday in October as “Native American Day” bode to a future worth celebrating. That’s why we’ve put together a list of 8 ways you can celebrate, admire, and learn more about Native American heritage in Tulsa.

Tulsa Native American Day (Virtual)

Oct 11: 2pm-5pm, Oct 12: 9am-5pm

While the 4th Annual Native American organized by the Greater Tulsa Indian Affairs Commission is taking to the web this year, you won’t want to miss this jam-packed program featuring IllumiNative, princesses, dancers, open drum groups and submissions from locals performing talents that honor Native American culture. The theme for this year’s event is “Protect the Sacred” and challenges event participants to question what the phrase means to them. 

The main program will take place on October 12th and stream on Facebook Live from 9 am-5 pm. However, you won’t want to miss the virtual market that opens on October 11th from 2 pm-5 pm where artists will tell their stories and showcase their products for purchase! If you miss this opportunity, the virtual market will still be available throughout the duration of the main program on October 12th. You can follow Tulsa’s Native American Day Facebook Page for more information.

I-Witness Culture exhibit by Frank Buffalo Hyde at Gilcrease Museum

Feb 8, 2020 – Jan 17, 2020

If you have not previously visited Gilcrease Museum, go. This Tulsa treasure houses the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of the American West. On any given visit, you will have access to works from hundreds of native American cultures, some dating back to 12,000 B.C.E.

Even if you have visited before, Frank Buffalo Hyde’s temporary exhibit, I-Witness Culture, is one of endless intrigue. While bison selfies and Yoda’s face imposed on a tortilla are certainly spectacles that require no further speculation to smile at, there is something deeper at play in this exhibit. 

Hyde’s distinct style that turns street art into fine art has a unique capacity to attach historical references to pop culture. It is, in a way, a reclaiming of Hyde’s native heritage “in a world where pop culture homogenizes indigenous culture”. Hyde demonstrates how Native Americans can define Indian art, that Native Americans are here, and cannot be reduced to a solely historical context. Find out more about the exhibit here.

Speak: Speak While You Can exhibit at Living Arts

Open through Oct 16

Living Arts, always at the forefront of connecting audiences with modern art that challenges and rejects comfortability, has hit the mark once again by hosting the exhibit, Speak: Speak While You Can, in their gallery.

This exhibit comprising a variety of Native American artists invokes a sense of urgency, even in the title. The thematic backbone of this exhibit is rooted in the idea that language is the ‘beating heart’ of any culture. The call-to-action is to save the heart from flatlining.

Native American resilience has seen to the survival and preservation of a Native cultural identity, but with many fluent tribal speakers passing on, these artists realize that the race is on. A provocative and intergenerational message that rejects silence and stagnation, Speak: Speak While You Can, is an exhibit not to be missed. 

The exhibit is on display through October 16th. The gallery is open by appointment on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It is open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays from 12:00 pm-4:00 pm. You can find out more here

Hearts of Our People exhibit at Philbrook Museum of Art

Oct 7, 2020 – Jan 3, 2021

The ever-stunning Philbrook Museum of Art is a museum with national acclaim, drawing over 160,000 visitors annually (in ordinary times). The museum features a robust collection of art past and present, abroad and domestic. The museum’s latest temporary exhibit, Hearts of Our People, is one fully worthy of being one of the first to be showcased following the museum’s reopening.

Hearts of Our People pays homage in equal parts to both feminism and Native American culture. The exhibit is self-aware of the vast impact women have had on Native American culture as the creative force behind Native art, honoring the achievements of over 100 artists from the United States and Canada spanning over 1,000 years.

Philbrook is the final stop for this exhibit and will feature pieces that represent local communities. The display will show through January 3, 2021. Make sure to watch the accompanying video content featuring the artists and their inspiration for their art on Philbrook’s website!

Muscogee Creek Tribal exhibit at The Museum Broken Arrow

Permanent Exhibit

A venture of The Broken Arrow Historical Society, The Museum Broken Arrow is built upon ground where the Katy Train Depot once stood and is dedicated to bringing the history of Broken Arrow (including the time before it was even a city) to life. The Museum accomplishes this through its interactive, informative exhibits, including the Muscogee Creek Tribal Exhibit.

The city name, ‘Broken Arrow’ originates from an old Creek community in Alabama. When the Creek people were forced from their homes and into Indian Territory in the 1830s, they retained the name for their new community in Indian Territory. The Muscogee Creek Tribal Exhibit provides an opportunity to step into the past and learn about the first permanent Muscogee Creek settlers that arrived in present-day Oklahoma from Alabama, detailing their lifestyles and legends.

You can find the museum hours and more information on their website.

5 Moons Garden at the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum

The Tulsa Historical Society & Museum, established in 1963 and housed in an Italian-style mansion, has amassed an impressive rotating collection of all things Tulsa to ensure that there’s always something new to learn about T-Town. 

If you take a stroll through the Museum’s gorgeous grounds, you’ll come upon the enchanting 5 Moons Garden, where five graceful ballerinas are frozen in time. The renowned dancers: Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin, Maria Tallchief, and Marjorie Tallchief, are responsible for bringing recognition to Oklahoma and Native American art, forging a path for future dancers in an art form previously dominated and represented by Europeans. The bronze sculptures are a sight to behold.

You can learn more here.

Appeal to the Great Spirit Statue at Woodward Park

The sprawling 45 acres of Woodward Park is home to many breathtaking sights, including the bronze-clad Sioux chief on horseback donning a war bonnet with his palms to the sky. This sculpture is a replica of the sculpture created by Cyrus Dallin that stands outside the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Spend some time with the statue, and you will feel the weight of the moment captured in bronze. He can be found at the intersection of 21st Street and Peoria.

Creek Nation Council Oak Park

The Creek Council Tree, a mature burr oak, marks the traditional “busk ground” chosen in 1836 by the Lochapoka clan of Creek Indians.

An unsuspecting place nestled next to an apartment complex and near downtown Tulsa, Creek Nation Council Oak Park bears incredible significance. Listed in the National Register of Historic places, Council Oak Park marks the spot where the Locapoga clan of the Creek Indian Nation established their new home in Indian Territory in 1836. There once was a tree that overlooked the Arkansas River here, where the leader of the Creek clan placed the ashes of their last council fires from their ancestral homelands in Alabama. You can find the park and monument downtown at the corner of S Cheyenne Ave & W 18th St.

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©2020 Tulsa Regional Tourism

©2020 Tulsa Regional Tourism