Thursday, April 2, 2015

Oklahoma State History Museum

When I last posted, we were tucked into a lovely little campground in Elk City, OK. Well, what I didn't mention was that the wind decided to kick up and blew 40 mph ALL NIGHT LONG! We had to pull in our slides to keep the slide awnings from tearing and blowing away and got little sleep that night due to the noise of the wind blowing. We were lucky, though, because when we got up in the morning, we discovered that tornadoes had touched down outside of Tulsa and in Moore, OK, just a few miles south of Oklahoma City. In fact, when we reached our campground at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma City, the camp host told us they had spent the previous night in the storm shelter! Springtime in Oklahoma, I'm told!

The Oklahoma History Center is a very modern building located across the highway from the State Capitol Building and provides a great view of the Capitol.

 We started our tour at the We Are Who We Were: American Indians in Oklahoma exhibit.  This is currently the largest exhibit in the museum and, in my opinion, the best one.  Displayed are many Indian artifacts from the mid to late 1800s into the early 1900s, most of which are in pristine condition.  It was difficult to take pictures as everything is, of course, behind glass, but here are a couple.

A variety of fans, made from feathers.

The oldest artifact I saw and it looks like something you would buy in a jewelry store today.

Along with the artifacts are multiple panels of text describing the true history of the American Indian, from the amazing civilization that existed prior to the white man through the horrendous breaches of trust that occurred during the white man's unquenchable thirst for land. Oklahoma Territory was the designated destination for, not only the Five Civilized Tribes, but all Indians that made their home east of the Mississippi. in accordance with the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  Indian tribes were promised land in perpetuity if they would relocate and this relocation became known as the Trail of Tears.

When the white man's desire for land was surpassed by the available land, the tribes that had been given land in Western Oklahoma were resettled into Eastern Oklahoma and the newly opened land was given away in several land rushes, most notably, the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889.

The land in Eastern Oklahoma still belongs to 39 different tribes.  A guide at another museum told us that an individual today can be legitimate a citizen of an Indian Nation, a citizen of Oklahoma and a citizen of the U.S.

There also were many videos made by descendants recounting personal family history.  I personally did not realize how completely educated and "civilized" the Indian Nations were prior to the settlement by white man.  What struck me the most deeply while touring the gallery was the depth of the loss incurred, not only by the Indians, but to the country as a whole.  How much richer we might have been as a society if we had not insisted on the obliteration of the Native American!

Another unexpected exhibit called "Colored Memories" consisted of colorized photographs from the city of Boley, Oklahoma's most famous all-black city.  Maybe it's because I grew up in the north, but I had no idea that a thing such as an all-black city existed!   

In 1913, the citizens of Oklahoma City filled, then buried a time capsule under the Lutheran church, to be opened in one hundred years. What was found in 2013 was in the exhibit called "Century Chest."   The copper chest itself was  about 6ft x 3ft x 3ft.  This was a fascinating display for me.  The artifacts were interesting, but what captured my attention were the letters written to descendants and citizens not yet born and the predictions made.  It seemed like anyone and everyone was allowed to include something in the chest. Several of the packages included in the chest had not been opened as the descendants had not yet been located.

Other exhibits were typical of a state history center such as, Politics and Government, law & Order, Farm & ranch, education, oil and gas plus too many more to mention.  We spent about 4 hours there and Sid could have spent many more   (His preferred mode of operating is to read each and EVERY display. It will probably take us months to go through the Smithsonian!). But we had another stop scheduled for that day and we pushed on.

Until next time....

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