By William Swaim, Wyandotte Nation
The Wyandotte Nation took a monumental step forward in preserving its past for future generations with the construction and opening of its new Cultural Center Friday, Sept. 9.
“We know this is something that is not only going to benefit our generation, but generations to come,” Wyandotte Nation Chief Billy Friend said to a packed house at the Center’s grand opening ceremony. “We as Wyandotte people, because of our forced removal and our trail here, like many other tribes we lost a lot of our culture, our traditions and our ceremonies. They were not dead, but had laid dormant for many years.
“Many of us grew up not knowing what it meant to be Wyandotte. So many of us did not have the benefit that our children and our grandchildren are going to have today – learning what it is to be Wyandotte and knowing what that actually means, knowing their identity, knowing where they came from, knowing their family, and knowing their ancestors.”
The 7,625-square foot Cultural Center features a museum, classrooms, a multipurpose room, gift shop, and the Tribal Heritage Department offices. The facility will also feature an eternal flame, representing the Tribe’s historic role as Keepers of the Council Fire.
The Cultural Center will play host to language and arts and crafts classes as well as be the site of the Tribe’s annual ‘The Gathering,’ which is an opportunity for tribal citizens to connect and learn more about their culture, traditions, language and history. The Center will also safely house tribal artifacts for the Wyandotte Nation in preserving the Tribe’s past.
“As the vision began to come forth and the Creator placed the vision in us to begin to plan and to go forward, this was something we always wanted,” Chief Friend said. “We wanted a place that we could bring our children, we could bring our grandchildren, and teach them our traditions, our customs, teach them our language, so that in seven generations to come these things will still be taught. These things will still be carried forward. This is such a monumental day for us to be able to do this.”
Chief Friend closed by thanking the Wyandotte Nation Cultural Committee and the many others who made the Center a reality.
The funding for the $1,687,000 project came from an Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) and from economic development provided by the Wyandotte Nation’s federally-chartered corporation, Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma (WTOK).
Thomas Boxley was the architect and Crossland Construction built the Cultural Center.