- Cathy O’Connor
First Americans Museum a significant achievement
This weekend marks the grand opening of the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City with public events Friday and Saturday. The celebration includes a tribal parade, remarks by tribal and state leaders, appearances by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, actors Lil Mike and Funnybone from the TV series Reservation Dogs, and musical performances by Prairie Blossoms and the Red Men Blues Band.
Attendees will have the first look at this incredible 175,000-square-foot facility that offers a multimedia experience showcasing past and present cultures and contributions of the 39 Indigenous tribes and nations of Oklahoma. Visitors will walk through the 110-foot glass Hall of the People, an architectural representation inspired by the grass houses built by Wichita and Affiliated people. On winter solstice, the east-west orientation of the building will allow rays from the setting sun to precisely penetrate a tunnel at the base of the large mound on the museum grounds to illuminate the Touch to Above sculpture in the Hall of the People.
Throughout the museum are stories and exhibits that help people better understand the legends, history, perseverance, impact and evolution of all of the tribes of Oklahoma. Artwork commissioned by Native American artists can be found throughout the museum. The illustration on copper panels “Indigenous Brilliance” by Joseph Erb can be found at the entrance to the galleries. A massive mural by Amber DuBoise-Shepherd, “Reunion with Our Ancestors,” greets visitors with colorful imagery.
A theater with a wrap-around screen shows the faces and voices of individual tribal members who share stories and memories of their tribal music, artwork, culture, education, history and way of life. The authenticity was preserved through contributions, artifacts and artwork from all 39 tribes and an 11-member, all-tribal curatorial team. It’s an outstanding result of years of planning, public-private partnership and inclusion of many perspectives.
The museum tells the survival story of forced tribal removals and other historic events including the Dust Bowl and land runs. It also celebrates the culture and people who have faced cultural disruptions and economic loss and have risen more resilient as a result.
I encourage you to explore the educational opportunities, art and history that can be found at the First Americans Museum. Tickets for opening weekend must be purchased in advance at famok.org.