Indian Time: Oklahoma Indian museum expected to be big draw

The unfinished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City. Photo from AICCM

The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum could draw millions of tourists and generate millions for the economy in Oklahoma -- that's if it's ever finished:
Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, says there has been a lot of misunderstanding about the museum in the legislature.

“First of all, this was not an Indian idea, this was an Oklahoma City idea during the middle of the last energy bust; what can we do to attract and diversify our economy? Attract people here? We've got the intersection of two great interstate highways. So, it’s not like the Indians dreamed this up, this was something that the non-Indians decided will attract people, this is part of our heritage, this is important. Tribes have actually been very supportive and many tribes have contributed but again, we didn't ask anybody in Oklahoma City to come fund the Chickasaw museum in Sulphur,” Cole said.

Construction halted on the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in 2012. It now stands vacant and unfinished along the city’s Oklahoma River. Its curved, bone-like metal struts and massive, grass-covered mound that was meant to evoke the ancient mounds of the Mississippian peoples now is a daily reminder to passing motorists of a failure to launch. Congressman Cole feels the Legislature needs further enlightening on this project.

“I think you've got a lot of people in the legislature that somehow think this was a "gimme" to Indian tribes and it simply was not,” Cole said. “It was an effort to develop central Oklahoma. If we were going build something for Indians we would have probably built it on Indian land. This is all unassigned land that has no tribal sovereignty or jurisdiction in it,” Cole said.

“I think the tribes have actually stepped up and tried to help, they've tried to help financially, they've tried to help in terms of picking exhibits and providing things if it’s ever built,” Cole said.

Get the Story:
American Indian Cultural Center And Museum Belongs To Oklahoma Not Tribes (KGOU 9/26)

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