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Oklahoma’s Native American Experiences

Learn about the deep heritage and rich culture of Oklahoma’s Native American nations with tours and experiences at sites around the state.

 

Day 1

  • Arrive in Duncan
  • Lunch and tour at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
  • Visit the Comanche National Cultural Center in Lawton
  • Tour the Museum of the Great Plains
  • Explore Chief’s Knoll at Fort Sill
  • Dinner and overnight at Apache Casino Hotel

Comanche National Cultural Center — Lawton

The Comanche settled in southwestern Oklahoma and are also referred to as the “Lords of the Plains.” Their skill at breeding horses gave them an edge during wartimes, as few other tribes rode horseback into battle. Their horses allowed them to lead nomadic lives and hunt buffalo, which were valuable sources of food, clothing and other goods for the tribe. Groups can learn about
Comanche history and traditions at the
Comanche National Cultural Center, which opened to the public in 2007. The center was designed to deepen public understanding of Comanche culture and to foster an appreciation for the tribe’s cultural practices, language and art. Groups can tour the museum’s interactive exhibits and art galleries, where historical artifacts, photographs and art have been studied and archived. One popular exhibit is an award-winning, immersive buffalo hunting simulator, where visitors experience what Comanche life was like. Groups can also learn about the Comanche men who served in World War II as code talkers. 

comanchemuseum.com

Day 2

  • Head northwest toward Medicine Park
  • Stop at the Comanche Shirt Company
  • Continue north to the Kiowa Tribal Museum in Carnegie
  • Travel east to Anadarko
  • Tour the Southern Plains Indian Museum
  • Explore the National Hall of Famous American Indians
  • Continue northeast to Oklahoma City
  • Tour and dinner at the First Americans Museum
  • Overnight in Oklahoma City Depart for Shawnee

First Americans Museum — Oklahoma City

Of the 39 Native American tribes that now reside in Oklahoma, only a handful are considered native to the area; the rest originate from other parts of the U.S. and were removed to Oklahoma in the 1800s. Honoring and telling the stories of each of these tribes is a tall order, but it’s one the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City strives to meet. The museum’s unique, striking architecture was designed to symbolize the journey of Native Americans throughout history and capture their perseverance in the face of many challenges. Groups can learn the stories of each of the 39 tribes that reside in Oklahoma today with interactive digital exhibits. The museum also features collections of historic artifacts and art from the tribes, some of which were curated from the Smithsonian. The on-site restaurant offers dining options for groups looking to experience modern indigenous cuisine, and the gift shop offers one-of-a-kind pieces by artisans from many different tribes. 

famok.org

Day 3

  • Visit the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center
  • Explore the Citizen Potawatomi Eagle Aviary
  • Head south to Sulphur
  • Tour the Chickasaw Cultural Center
  • Visit the Chickasaw National Capitol Building and the Chickasaw Council House Museum
  • Continue southeast to Tishomingo
  • Dinner and live music at  Blake Shelton’s Ole Red
  • Continue southeast to Durant
  • Overnight at the Choctaw Resort and Casino

Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center — Shawnee

The Potawatomi tribe originated in the Great Lakes area and the upper Great Plains, but like many others, they were forced to cede their lands to the U.S. government in the 19th century. They settled in present day Shawnee, Oklahoma, where they are now known as the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. In 2018, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Heritage Center reopened following a renovation, and it has been telling visitors the story of the “people of the place of the fire” ever since. The center’s museum features multiple exhibits with digital elements designed to educate about Potawatomi history and its legends. Exhibits cover topics such as European integration’s effects on the Potawatomi, relationships with other native tribes and re-creations of Potawatomi cultural practices. The museum also houses a collection of Potawatomi garments, tools and artwork for visitors to see. Groups can check out the museum’s exhibits at their own pace, though guided tours are available by request. 

potawatomiheritage.com

Day 4

  • Breakfast and tour at the Choctaw Cultural Center
  • Depart Durant and head northeast
  • Stop and tour at Fort Washita
  • Tour and lunch at Choctaw Capitol Museum Building in Tuskahoma
  • Continue north to Muskogee
  • Visit the Ataloa Lodge Museum at Bacone College
  • Campfire and overnight at Sequoyah State Park

Choctaw Cultural Center — Calera

The name “Oklahoma” comes from two Choctaw words, “okla” and “homma,” which mean “red people.” However, the Choctaw originated from the Natchez Trace region in Alabama and Mississippi and were later removed during the 19th century. The Choctaw people were renowned for their skill in agriculture and trade and were also impressive warriors. The Choctaw Cultural Center, which opened in 2021, uses interactive exhibits and 100,000 square feet of space to tell the story of the Choctaw people. In the museum’s main exhibit space, groups will find various galleries and exhibits that explain the origins of the Choctaw and their history, as well as information about the Choctaw Nation today. In the museum’s Living Village, visitors can walk through a re-creation of a Choctaw village to see dwellings and demonstrations of Choctaw traditions, including stickball and dances. Films by and about the Choctaw people play in the museum’s theater, and visitors can try some delicious traditional Choctaw recipes, as well as some modern fare, in the Champuli Café. 

choctawculturalcenter.com

Day 5

  • Depart for Tahlequah
  • Cherokee Nation tour, including the  Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum, the Cherokee National Prison Museum and the Cherokee National History Museum
  • Lunch and shopping in downtown Tahlequah
  • Depart for Claremore
  • Tour the Will Rogers Memorial Museum
  • Head west for a tour and dinner at Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve near Bartlesville
  • Depart for overnight in Ponca City

Cherokee National History Museum — Tahlequah

The Cherokee, one of the largest tribes in North America, are also known for their positive interactions with European settlers and their cooperation with the American government. Today the Cherokee Nation still proudly displays its culture and is passionate about sharing it with visitors. The Cherokee National History Museum opened in 2019 and offers groups 7,000 square feet of multimedia exhibits to explore, featuring tribal artwork and educational materials that educate visitors about the history of the Cherokee Nation from its origins to present day. The museum allows visitors to hear the stories of individual Cherokee members as they navigated the challenges of the past, such as the Trail of Tears. The museum also offers classes about Cherokee culture and allows visitors to participate by teaching them how to create traditional Cherokee arts and crafts.    

visitcherokeenation.com

Day 6

  • Visit the Standing Bear Park and Museum
  • Depart for home

Standing Bear Museum and Education Center — Ponca City

The Standing Bear Museum and Education Center was built to honor six indigenous tribes in the region and was named for a Ponca chief whose incredible story of courage inspired a statue in his honor. Standing Bear’s 1879 testimony in court during the forced relocation of his tribe led to the recognition of Native Americans as people under the law and garnered attention for the plight of the indigenous people. Groups can go for walks and enjoy nature on the museum’s eight acres of scenic park land. The 22-foot bronze statue of Standing Bear can be found among the gardens, walking paths and serene water features. The museum’s unique architecture was designed to highlight each of the six tribes. Groups will find hundreds of artifacts relating to each of the tribes, as well as photographs and paintings that display their histories and ways of life. 

standingbearpark.com

You can find this itinerary along with more resources to plan your group’s trip to Oklahoma at travelok.com/group-tours/toolkits.

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