Published August 6, 2017
SULPHUR, OKLAHOMA – July at the Chickasaw Cultural Center has been month of milestones, celebrations and famous visitors.
On July 15, the cultural center reached a milestone of 600,000 visitors. Less than a week later, July 24, the cultural center marked seven years of operation.
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said the cultural center represents more than 20 years of dreaming and planning by the Chickasaw people.
“This is truly a unique and extraordinary venue because it reflects the vision, creativity and perseverance of the Chickasaw people,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “For generations, individuals and families have worked to revitalize and preserve our culture to ensure Chickasaws remain a united and unconquerable people. This center serves as a unique place to honor those efforts as we celebrate and share the history and cultural legacy of the Chickasaw people.”
The 600,000 visitor milestone went largely unnoticed at the time, because visitors were celebrating the Holba’ Pisachi’ Film Festival. Native American actors and filmmakers walked the red carpet and happily signed autographs for a diverse group of smiling fans packed into the lobby of the Anoli’ Theater.
Acclaimed actors Wes Studi and Martin Sensmeier were joined by award-winning director Chris Eyre at the festival to discuss filmmaking as part of a new era in Native American storytelling. Studi has appeared in more than 70 film and television roles in a career spanning several decades.
Sensmeier is a rising star who recently landed a featured role alongside Denzel Washington in “The Magnificent Seven” and plays the lead in the Chickasaw Nation feature film project “The Chickasaw Rancher,” now in post-production.
Sensmeier said he sees film as a good way to continue the storytelling tradition and preserve and promote Native American culture.
“Our culture is never static,” Sensmeier said. “Our technology evolves, our culture evolves, so it is great to see that with the availability of resources, storytelling is evolving. The Chickasaw Nation is doing a great job, an amazing job of following the tradition of telling stories and telling their own stories. I think that is really special.”
In addition to the feature films, including “Te Ata” and “The Chickasaw Rancher,” the Chickasaw Nation is also producing documentaries. “First Encounter,” which explores the Chickasaw Nation’s confrontation with Spanish Conquistador Hernando de Soto was screened at the Cultural Center July 29.
Two days after the film festival “The Voice” stars Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani made a visit to the cultural center with Stefani’s three children, Kingston, 11, Zuma, eight, and Apollo, three. During their visit, they were immersed in Chickasaw culture.
Shelton and Stefani enjoyed a day very similar to that of thousands of families from across the U.S. and around the world who visit the expansive campus of the cultural center.
Set on 184-acres of rolling hills and woods in Sulphur, Oklahoma, the campus features natural architectural elements and picturesque scenery that help set the stage for a unique cultural experience. Interactive cultural demonstrations, educational exhibits and family movies offer visitors a wide variety of opportunities to immerse themselves in Chickasaw culture and learn more about the history of the Chickasaw people.
Learning opportunities are plentiful in the Chikasha Inchokka´ Traditional Village where cultural instructors share activities such as Stickball games, cooking demonstrations, language lessons, and archery demonstrations.
Artwork on the campus includes paintings and sculptures by internationally acclaimed Chickasaw and Native artists, as well as awe-inspiring water features.
Massive outdoor sculptures, such as “The Arrival” by Chickasaw artist Mike Larsen, “Owwatta” (“They’re Hunting”) by James Blackburn, and Joanna Underwood’s southeastern pottery sculptures intermingle with beautiful water and rock features and native landscaping.
The Aapisa’ Art Gallery is a place to appreciate the art and artists of the Chickasaw Nation and hosts special exhibits throughout the year.
The Holisso: The Center for the Study of Chickasaw Culture and History safeguards historical artifacts and documents and allows visitors to research their family heritage.
Native plants grow abundantly throughout the campus and amongst the stone architecture of the Aaholiitobi’ Honor Garden, a structure honoring Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame inductees.
The Inkana “Friend” pedestrian bridge connects the Chickasaw Cultural Center and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, providing easy access between the two attractions.
Built upon the vision of Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby and the ideas and creativity of the Chickasaw people, the Chickasaw Cultural Center is a place where Chickasaw culture lives and thrives.
For more information about the Chickasaw Cultural Center, visit chickasawculturalcenter.com or call 580-622-7130.