Exploring Oklahoma’s Indigenous Treasures: A Native American Cultural Travel Guide

Exploring Oklahoma’s Indigenous Treasures: A Native American Cultural Travel Guide

Oklahoma Native American Travel Guide

Oklahoma is home to 39 different Native American Nations, including the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw. Many of Oklahoma’s First Americans were moved to the state forcibly under the Indian Removal Act or other various government programs of the 1800s.

No trip to the Sooner State is complete without uncovering some of its rich, Native American heritage.

Plan a visit to one of its wonderful museums, historic sites, and landmarks – and don’t forget to grab a bite to eat at the state's various First American restaurants. These are the best cultural experiences to have in Oklahoma!


Museums

Museums are a powerful resource to aid future generations' interest in Native American history and to create a better understanding of the greater American population as a whole. Add a visit to any of the museums to your weekend trip or travel itinerary and uncover interesting artifacts, art, and ethnographic materials that tell the story of Oklahoma’s First Peoples.

First Americans Museum

First Americans Museum_60sec

Learn about Oklahoma’s rich indigenous history through interactive exhibits and events at the First Americans Museum. Many permanent exhibits, like the OKLA HOMMA exhibit, feature various forms of media including art and film, to showcase the state's rich history in its massive 39,000-square-foot gallery. The One Place, Many Nations exhibit holds invaluable information for those who are looking to learn more about Oklahoma’s First Americans and is just one of five different exhibits in total.

Don’t miss out on your chance to visit the 39 Restaurant, located onsite, and dishing up seriously yummy Native American food. This is one of the most comprehensive museums on Oklahoma’s First Nations heritage and a must-see on your trip to OKC!

Five Civilized Tribes Museum

Fiver Civilized Tribes Museum

The Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, OK, showcases the tradition and history of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee Creek, and Seminole peoples through beautiful artifacts. The building itself was important to the Chickasaw peoples and was originally the Union Indian Agency Building where the Five Civilized Tribes Superintendent lived. It has seen many other iterations over the years but today showcases artifacts, fine art, and educational exhibits and material on the Trail of Tears.

Chickasaw Cultural Center

Authentic Native American Culture at the Chickasaw Cultural Center

The Chickasaw Cultural Center is both a gathering space for the community and visitors. This sprawling cultural center features The Chickasha Poya Exhibit Center is the Cultural Center's main museum and has both ethnographic and interactive exhibits like the Stomp Dance Room or the Removal Corridor, it also holds the Spirit Forest and Aachompa’ Gift Shop. Guests can explore all of these dedicated spaces throughout the property, like the Aaholiitobli’ Honor Garden and the Chikasha Inchokka’ Traditional Village, making a full day of learning about Chickasaw heritage and history.

Choctaw Cultural Center

Choctaw Cultural Center

Much like the Chickasaw Cultural Center, the Choctaw Cultural Center aims to educate visitors on the incredible history and heritage of the Choctaw peoples. This impressive space has a huge lobby area to welcome guests before leading guests to the various 12 exhibits that represent the Choctaw 12 districts. These exhibits showcase everything from the origins of the tribe, their Mississippian ancestors, all the way to the modern day. Guests can explore further at the Living Village, Kowi Chito Theater, Champuli Cafe, Luksi Activity Center, and Hvshi Gift Store. A Pow Wow is held every year and is one of the can’t miss events in Oklahoma!

Osage Nation Museum

Osage Nation Museum

Founded in 1938, the Osage Nation Museum is a beautiful dedication to the Osage Nation and America’s oldest tribally governed museum. Visitors will find everything from archaeological artifacts to photographs and art in the museum’s permanent collection. The Osage Nation Museum also has frequent temporary exhibits like the Wedding Clothes and the Osage Community exhibit or the Enduring Images: Osage Photographic Portraiture exhibit.

Standing Bear Museum

Standing Bear Park, Museum and Education Center

Standing Bear was an important American historical figure and Chief of the Ponca Nation. Forced to move from their ancestral home in Nebraska to Oklahoma, Standing Bear attempted to flee these lands after two of his children died. He famously went to court and won his trial after being captured and imprisoned, which changed both laws and sentiments about First Americans forever. The Standing Bear Museum is dedicated in this incredible man's honor and showcases artifacts and art from the Ponca tribe.

Seminole National Museum

Seminole Nation Museum

The Seminole National Museum highlights the Seminole Nation and their removal from their ancestral lands in the Florida Everglades. The museum's permanent exhibits showcase unique history like that of the Seminole Lighthorsemen or of Alice Brown Davis in their massive, 2,400’ showroom. Other exhibits detail the history of the surrounding area and town of Wewoka.

Cherokee National History Museum

Cherokee National History Museum opens

Located in Tahlequah, at the end of the Trail of Tears, is the Cherokee National History Museum. Various exhibits feature everything from traditional clothing to archaeological artifacts. The museum also holds interesting events like the Ribbon Skirt Fashion Show, Cherokee Art Market, and the Trail of Tears Art Show. The Trail of Tears gallery is particularly moving and told through the spoken word of Cherokee people. Labor Day weekend is a great time to visit as the museum holds their annual Cherokee National Holiday, which celebrates the signing of the Cherokee Constitution.


Landmarks & Historical Sites

Landmarks and historical sites are a chance for visitors to connect with Native American culture and heritage one on one, often in nature. Many of these sites are historic structures, revealing an intimate look at Oklahoma’s First Americans, or areas where First Nations peoples lived. These are some of the best historic sites and landmarks that will help visitors connect to indigenous history and culture in Oklahoma.

Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center

The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center is one of the most important Native American sites in Oklahoma. This is the only Native American archaeological site that is open to the public in the state and showcases the 12 mounds and village area of the Spiro peoples, located along the Arkansas River. This group influenced much of the surrounding areas and formed a vast trade network that researchers believe spanned from Baja to Virginia. Modern day visitors can explore interpretive exhibits and trails, revealing this incredible site.

Chickasaw White House

Located in Ada, Oklahoma, only an hour and a half south of OKC, this pretty, white house was the home of Chickasaw Governor Douglas Henry Johnston. His family resided in the house from 1898 to 1971. This building is an integral part of local Chickasaw history and an interesting stop if you’re interested in this vital history yourself. Guided tours are offered on a daily basis.

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

The Trail of Tears spans 9 different states with its conclusion in Oklahoma and marks a horrific time in America’s history. The Cherokee peoples were made to walk from their ancestral home in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia to an unfamiliar and starkly different land in Oklahoma. The historical end of this trail is near Tahlequah, Oklahoma at what was known as “disbandment sites”, parcels of land that the Cherokee peoples were assigned to. Visitors can still walk portions of the trail in Eastern Oklahoma or visit the Cherokee National Museum in Tahlequah.


Restaurants

Exploring traditional dishes and ingredients is one of the best ways to connect with a culture. Add one of these restaurants, chocolate shops, or breweries to your list of things to do in Oklahoma for a taste of one of the state's 39 First Nations groups!

Natv Restaurant

Shawnee Chef Jacque Siegfried always dreamt of opening her own restaurant. Her dream was realized when she founded Natv, a restaurant that focuses on traditional Native American recipes, made with local ingredients. Located in Tulsa, visitors can try delicious dishes like corn cakes, buffalo sliders, fry bread, succotash and sunchoke gnocchi, just to name a few! Don’t miss out on trying the pashofa, a Choctaw and Chickasaw soup made from cracked white corn/

Aaimpa Cafe

The Aaimpa Cafe is located inside the Chickasaw Cultural Center, making it the perfect two for one cultural experience. Guests can try mouthwatering First Nations recipes like venison stew, salmon, or the buffalo burger for a modern twist. The restaurant was recently renovated and expanded, along with their menu.

Thirty Nine Restaurant

Located in downtown OKC, 39 Restaurant places an emphasis on the rich First Nations heritage of Oklahoma. The restaurant is located at the First Americans Museum although there’s no need to visit the museum to indulge in this wonderful dining experience. Chef Loretta Barrett Oden, a Citizen Potawatomi Nation, has created a menu centered on traditional, indigenous ingredients, alongside Executive Chef Geewon Kim. Dishes include Three Sister Stew, Blue Corn Blueberry Pancakes, and Hominy, White Bean Hummus. Ingenious cocktails are also on offer like the Rez Dog or Two Step.

Champuli Cafe

Located inside the Choctaw Cultural Center, visitors can further explore the fascinating Choctaw heritage and history through their taste buds. Open for lunch on a daily basis, menu items include traditional dishes like Grape Dumplings, Indian Tacos, Cajun Kvshka (catfish), and Banaha Bread.

Bedré Fine Chocolates

Purchased by the Chickasaw Nation in 2000, Bedré Fine Chocolates has become a nationally recognized brand under their careful curation. This is the only chocolatier owned by a First Nations tribe. You can find their delicious creations nationwide but it's a special treat to stop by the factory and storefront itself. Some of their specialties include their premium dark chocolate sauce, meltaways, and chocolate covered chips.


Breweries

Skydance Brewing Co.

Skydance Brewing Co. is the first Native American-owned brewery in OKC. Year-round beers include the Fancy Dance hazy IPA, NDN Time amber ale, and the Rez Dog native pilsner. They’re located right in the heart of the city and are a great way to support First Nations businesses – and try out their delicious craft beer!

Broken Arrow Brewing Co.
As its name suggests, Broken Arrow is located in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. They are one of just a few Native American-owned breweries in the entire United States, operating out of a unique Ice Plant building that was constructed in 1906. Just outside the city of Tulsa, visitors can sample refreshing brews like the Golden Tiger kolsch or the Hader-Weizen wheat beer and frequently have food trucks parked outside.


Activities & Tours

Be Native Tours

With a head office in Oklahoma City, Be Native Tours focuses on creating travel itineraries centered on Native American heritage. Founded by the Chickasaw Nation, this is a wonderful resource if you’re planning a trip in the American Southwest. Each itinerary, like the Chickasaw Experience and Five Tribes Cultural Experience, are pre-planned for visitors who want to be immersed in Oklahoma’s indigenous heritage. Itineraries range from a weekend trip to a seven-day tour.


Oklahoma Pow Wow

Pow Wows are a wonderful way to connect with Oklahoma's Native American history in a fun and exciting atmosphere. 

Below are just a few of the Pow Wows in Oklahoma!  See our Pow Wow Calendar for all the Native American Pow Wows in Oklahoma.

April:
OU AISA Annual Spring Pow Wow

Oklahoma City Pow Wow

University of Central Oklahoma Annual Pow Wow

Annual Symposium on the American Indian Pow Wow

May:
Riverside Indian School Senior Honor Pow Wow

Comanche Little Ponies Annual Celebration

Sac Fox Elders Advisory Committee Mothers Day Honor Dance

June:
Annual Peoria Pow Wow

Annual Miami Nation Pow Wow

July:
Annual Comanche Homecoming Celebration

Quapaw Nation Pow Wow

Annual Tulsa Pow Wow

OKC Pow Wow Club Annual Indian Hills Pow Wow

August:
47th Annual Kaw Nation Pow Wow 2023

Annual Ponca Tribal Celebration Pow Wow

September:
Annual Cherokee National Holiday Pow Wow

Comanche National Fair Pow Wow

October:
UKB Celebration Stomp Dance

Oklahoma State University Annual Pow Wow


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Last Updated on November 14, 2023 by Paul G


2 Comments on “Exploring Oklahoma’s Indigenous Treasures: A Native American Cultural Travel Guide”

  • Avatar for Cyndi Houck

    Cyndi Houck

    says:

    Why is Osage (Wazaze Nikase) is not ever mentioned anywhere (other than the recent movie, “Killers of the Flower Moon” which ignored the true Native American story)? We are a nation in Oklahoma too with a rich history and culture.

  • Avatar for Herramienta De Redes Sociales

    Broken Arrow, a Native American-owned brewery in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, stands out as a unique gem. Housed in a historic 1906 Ice Plant building, it offers a distinct experience for beer enthusiasts. Their offerings, such as Golden Tiger kolsch and Hader-Weizen wheat beer, are complemented by food trucks, making it a must-visit destination.

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