Growing up in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, I was surrounded by Native American art. From ancient artifacts to modern works, the artistic expressions of my people were all around me. Here are some of the best places in northeastern Oklahoma to enjoy a wide variety of Native American art.
Cherokee Heritage Museum
The Cherokee Heritage Museum, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma is the permanent home of the extensive Trail of Tears exhibit. This exhibit provides a compelling look at exactly what took place during the forced removal of the Cherokee tribe and other Indian people from the southeastern United States and relocation to what is now known as the state of Oklahoma.
In addition to artifacts from the removal period, the exhibit includes life sized sculptures so detailed, you may be forced to look away as they seemingly walk past you on the trail that left thousands dead, and many more broken.
The museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. seven days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day, closed on Sundays in the spring and fall, and closed on Sundays and Mondays in the winter.
Five Civilized Tribes Museum
The Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, Oklahoma presents art and culture from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw and Seminole tribes, collectively known as the Five Civilized Tribes. Housed in a historic building from the 1870s near the upper entrance to Honor Heights Park, the Five Civilized Tribe Museum has been bringing the stories of Oklahoma’s most populous tribes to the public through art and artifacts since 1966.
The museum is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. It is closed on Sundays and during the whole month of January.
The Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, known for its extensive collection of art from the American West, also happens to be home not only to an impressive collection of Native American art and artifacts, but also to a great number of important documents and maps relating to the history of the American Indian tribes that populate Oklahoma today. Committed to conservation and research, the Gilcrease Museum is an important asset to Native American cultural preservation.
Visit the museum from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. any time except Mondays and Christmas Day.
The Philbrook Museum, also in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is home to another large collection of Native American art, which visitors may enjoy right alongside exhibits from Europe, Asia, Africa and America. The Philbrook Museum is also home to a number of antiquities from ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, and has beautiful outdoor gardens to explore.
The museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day except Mondays and select holidays, or you can visit during evening hours on Thursdays when the museum stays open until 8:00 p.m.
The impressive Woolaroc museum near Bartlesville, Oklahoma was built by oil magnate Frank Phillips in 1925. What began as his personal ranch, became Frank Phillips’ gift to Oklahoma in the form of a 3,700 acre wildlife preserve where you can still see buffalo roam, and a museum that houses one of the best collections of western and Native American art in the state.
The museum and the rest of the ranch are open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and Tuesday through Sunday after Memorial Day to Labor Day. Come on out on Memorial Day and Labor Day, too, as the facilities are open on those holidays.
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