DURANT, OK – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has announced that its new Choctaw Cultural Center, which tells the 14,000-year-history of the Chahta people and represents more than a decade of research and work in creating the space, will officially open July 23, 2021 on the prairie land of southeastern Oklahoma in Durant. Featuring rich interactive and immersive exhibitions and engaging programs and activities, the Choctaw Cultural Center showcases the Nation’s treasured history and culture, and serves as a place to gather, learn, and preserve the Choctaw spirit and way of life.
“The Cultural Center was designed as a living, breathing space that encapsulates centuries of the Chahta Nowvt Aya, or Choctaw Journey,” said Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton. “From the replica of an ancient spiritual mound to state-of-the-art exhibits showcasing our history and culture, this is a place for tribal members to connect with and preserve our past and a place for our neighbors and friends to better understand the history that has shaped the Choctaw Nation. It is an important story to tell and one we are proud to share.”
The building, situated on 22-acres, is over 100,000 sq. ft. and houses two exhibit halls, an art gallery, auditorium, children’s area, classrooms, offices, gift shop, café and more. Among its many features is a Permanent Exhibit Hall with a four-part story focusing on the history of the Choctaw tribe from ancestral times (circa 1250) to current day in Oklahoma. To help tell the story are “live casts” of living Choctaw tribal members created based on 3-D scans of their faces and bodies. Some of the life-like figures scattered throughout show how the tribe lived “before contact” while others display how they live in contemporary times.
Other items of note in the permanent exhibit are a giant Luksi (Turtle) in the children’s activity center with traditional Choctaw houses and a mini-forest to explore. Also featured throughout are hand-made items created by Choctaw tribal members including jewelry, baskets, beadwork, a cape of feathers, artwork, and more.
The Center also includes a Changing Exhibition Gallery for traveling and community curated exhibits and special events. A state-of-the-art collections area is devoted to caring for cultural items, collections and an archive of some of the Nation’s most historical documents, artifacts, and other archival items.
Upon leaving the indoor exhibits, guests are invited to visit the Hvshi Gift Store for authentic Choctaw-made items and memorabilia and enjoy a meal at The Champuli Café for traditional Choctaw food as well as current options.
The Living Village is a surrounding space, which includes a replica of a traditional Choctaw mound, a stickball demonstration field, heirloom Choctaw crops, and a dance circle.
Throughout the Cultural Center – indoors and outdoors – Choctaw tribal members have the opportunity to teach, learn, and actively participate in the Choctaw culture. Activities like gathering for special presentations and Choctaw films, participating in the Choctaw tradition of oral storytelling or playing in a demonstration stickball game, all help keep the Choctaw spirit alive.