Spread the love

This week will see the long-awaited opening of the First Americans Museum (FAM) in Oklahoma City.   The new museum celebrates the shared history of the 39 distinct tribal nations in Oklahoma today.

 The 16,258 square metre museum is located in Oklahoma City and will promote awareness and educate the broader public about the unique cultures, diversity, history, contributions, and resilience of the First American nations.  

Oklahoma’s story began long before it became America’s 46th State in 1907.  The state’s name comes from two Choctaw words, “Okla” and “Homma,” meaning Red People, yet only a few Tribal Nations were indigenous to what is now the state of Oklahoma.  All others were removed from homelands across the contiguous United States to Indian Territory within the state and surrounding. 

The new museum sits on land previously inhabited by the Apache Tribe, the Caddo Nation, the Tonkawa Tribe, and the Wichita Tribes.  Additionally, the Comanche Nation, Kiowa Tribe, Osage Nation, and Quapaw Tribes all have a shared relationship with the land and region.  Affectionately regarded as the Crossroads of America, the site sits along the Oklahoma River with its door and entrance facing East to greet the new day. 

Inside the museum, visitors will have a chance to explore artifacts, arts, and crafts from each of the 39 Tribal Nations featured in the museum, along with participating in demonstrations, special events, and even taste Native cuisine.  Some of the exhibit and attraction highlights include: 

 Origins Theater: 

From the outside, the Origins Theater looks like a large piece of Caddo pottery. This acknowledges that the Caddo people have always called this place home. The design created by Jeri Redcorn (Caddo/Potawatomi) is an illustration applied on venetian plaster incorporating interactive layers referencing the sky, earth, and water into her design. This project was prepared with the assistance of Marwin Begaye (Navajo) and Starr Hardridge (Muscogee Nation). 

 Inside the Origins Theater is a 320-degree screen looping animation about creation stories from four tribes in Oklahoma. With tribal diversity and inclusion in mind, FAM narrowed down the stories selected into the common categories: stars/sky, water, earth. While there are several unique and singular stories from some tribes, the stories of the Pawnee, Euchee, Caddo, and Otoe-Missouria were selected as they were relatable to most tribes in Oklahoma. 

 Tribal Nations Gallery:  

This signature exhibit shares the collective circumstances, histories, and stories of the 39 Tribal Nations in Oklahoma today. This includes those tribes who have always been here and those removed from ancestral homelands to what is now Oklahoma. Visitors are immersed in a media-rich experience highlighting tribal origin stories and historical accounts from a uniquely Native first-person perspective. In addition, this exhibit reveals insights into Native cultural lifeways, including humour, sports and games, and the role of warriors in their communities. The entire curatorial team are members of tribes in Oklahoma today.  

The FAM Mound:

This 21st-century FAM Mound is a tribute to the many tribes in Oklahoma who descend from Mound builder cultures or have earthen architecture as part of their cultural lifeways.   

 Oklahoma has a rich legacy of mound building cultures dating back to around 500 A.D.  The 

Caddo Nation and Wichita and Affiliated Tribes have always called this place home. Archeological evidence demonstrates advanced trade networks were established with other cultural groups that spanned a large portion of the present-day United States.  The Oklahoma Archeological Survey acknowledges that “The Spiro Mounds in eastern Oklahoma are considered one of the most important archaeological discoveries in North America”, so it was essential that this unique culture and architecture be featured in the museum as well. 

The FAM Mound is 304m in diameter and ramps up to 27 metres high at the peak. It is a 1km roundtrip walk, and 45,000 semi-truckloads of earth were brought in to build up the FAM Mound.  Whilst the FAM mound will not be opening in line with the Grand Opening this week, it will soon welcome guests.

Thirty Nine Restaurant: 

The signature restaurant at FAM will feature an Indigenous menu which combines traditional foods with a contemporary flare. The meals have been created by Regional Chef Brad Harris, Emmy award winning Chef Loretta Barrett Oden (Citizen Potawatomi Nation) and Executive Chef Keith Breedlove.  Thirty Nine Restaurant will offer a sit-down dining experience, complete with great ambience and service, and delicious menu items inspired by authentic Native recipes and tribally specific dishes. Ingredients will be sourced locally and regionally, with a focus on produce and game indigenous to Oklahoma.  The menu will also serve as an educational tool to bring awareness to culinary distinctions between tribes, and the cultural history behind the recipes.  Thirty Nine is set to become a unique dining experience, not just for Oklahoma, but across all of the United States.