By William Swaim / Wyandotte Nation
In an effort to preserve Wyandotte Nation heritage and culture, the Tribe has moved forward with plans for an approximate 7,000 square foot Cultural Center to be built near the Bearskin Healthcare & Wellness Center in Wyandotte, Okla.
“It’s important to preserve our heritage and our culture,” said Wyandotte Nation Second Chief Norman Hildebrand. “And to have a facility that will educate our people and the public about what our culture is, where we come from and where we are going.”
Wyandotte Nation Planning Director Ron Kaiser said they have been looking at a project like this for some time. “One of the things the Tribe had been looking to develop was some kind of museum, some kind of expression of the Tribe’s culture and history. In recent years the Tribe has looked more at educating Wyandottes on their culture, and to then continue that and to express it to other people.”
Designs for the exciting new Cultural Center include classrooms, a multipurpose area, meeting and conference rooms, a small research library, gift shop, and the museum. The multipurpose room can be divided into three rooms and holds seating for about 140-150 people.
“It’s where people are going to learn, kids are going to learn, and the community will learn what it means to be Wyandotte, what it means to carry on the traditions,” said Tribal Heritage Director Sherri Clemons.
Clemons said the facility will always be in use. She said they are working at having the Tribe’s linguist doing online classes at different times if people want to learn the language. There will be lots of classes, such as beading, moccasin, and dance classes.
“We have several young tribal members interested in learning to Pow-Wow dance,” she said.
Plans also include an outdoor plaza with an open fire pit and an outdoor classroom.
“The Wyandottes were keepers of the council fire so we are going to have an eternal flame,” Hildebrand said. “You’ll be able to see Lost Creek, there will be a great view up there and we’ll have plenty of room to hold dances or outdoor classes.”
Hildebrand said the Cultural Center design is a medicine wheel concept. Tom Boxley, of Tulsa, is the architect who created the design. His firm worked on the Quapaw Tribe’s museum.
The project is expected to cost around $1.3 to $1.4 million. Most of the funding comes from an Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) the Wyandotte Nation applied for through HUD. The grant was $800,000 with 20 percent in matching grant funds coming from the Tribe.
Hildebrand said the rest of the project will be funded through economic development provided by the Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma (WTOK), the Tribe’s federally-chartered corporation.
Bids opened January 2015 for the project and the goal is to have most of the project completed before the Annual Meeting and Gathering in September.
“Hopefully, 90 percent will be done by September,” Hildebrand said. “Because we have our Annual Meeting in September, we’d like the biggest part done by then so those attending can get a look at it, get a feel for it. Hoping it is done in the Fall or early Winter – weather permitting.”
Clemons said the Wyandotte Nation has gathered many items, archives, documents and artifacts for the planned museum and resource library, but are looking for more.
Clemons can be reached at (918) 678-2297 ext. 244 for those interested in donating or loaning items to the Culture Center.
“The goal is to build a Cultural Center that will provide the Tribal community with a place for learning Wyandotte Culture, teaching Wyandotte Culture and explaining Wyandotte Culture,” Kaiser said.