The doors of Chahta Nowvt Aya, the “Choctaw Journey,” are closer each day to opening wide for visitors expected from around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed construction, but now the much-anticipated display of Choctaw history and culture is back on track and scheduled to open to the public in early May 2021. Chief Gary Batton said, “It will be open to all who want to learn.”
A planning committee headed by Sue Folsom, Executive Director of Choctaw Nation Cultural Services, said the committee made 36 visits to tribal cultural centers and museums across the country gathering ideas for the Choctaw project.
The center has been eight years in the making. The story it tells will cover 14,000 years of the Chahta people.
“The Choctaw Cultural Center is dedicated to preserving and perpetuating Choctaw culture and history,” said Stacey Halfmoon, Senior Executive Director of the facility. “It is a place to experience Choctaw culture through exhibitions and programs. The collections and archives ensure we are good stewards of cultural items and documents. Classrooms and event spaces ensure we can continue to teach, learn and participate in Choctaw culture.”
Activities will be geared for both tribal members and visitors seeking to learn more about the Choctaw people. Halfmoon said the experience will run “from rich interactive and immersive exhibitions to fun and engaging programs and activities,” including exhibitions, stickball fields, a living village, educational programs to join, story tellers to hear, and a theater which will host presentations and films.
The Champuli Café will serve a number of traditional Choctaw foods along with more familiar cuisine. The Hvshi Gift Store will offer authentic Choctaw-made items among other memorabilia.
In addition to the permanent exhibition and changing gallery, also featured will be the Luksi (Turtle) Activity Center for the young, or just young at heart, with traditional Choctaw houses to explore, a mini-forest, and even a giant luksi. Outdoor areas include a Living Village, earthen mound, and stickball fields.
Entry to the cultural center complex is off of Choctaw Road, west of the intersection of Choctaw Road and Highway 69/75 in Durant.
“The Choctaw Cultural Center sits on a 22-acre footprint within a 100-acre site owned by the Choctaw Nation,” said Halfmoon. “The building itself is just over 100,000 sq. ft.”
It is an investment by the Choctaw Nation of $75 million in the construction of the project.
“And that is reflected in the beauty of the Choctaw Cultural Center building itself,” Halfmoon said. “A return on vision, the Choctaw Cultural Center will welcome visitors for generations to come and will ensure that the rich and dynamic culture of the Choctaw people stays alive and well.”