Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Five Civilized Tribes Museum

Name: The Five Civilized Tribes Museum
Tribe: Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole
Location: 1101 Honor Heights Drive, Muskogee, OK 74401
Type: Art and History Museum, NRHP Historic Building
Visiting Info: Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat 10am-2pm (closed Sundays and all of January), Admission: $1.50-$3
Contact: Website, telephone 918-683-1701

In 1951, a Native women's organization called the Da-Co-Tah Club began a campaign to turn the abandoned Union Indian Agency Building in Muskogee, Oklahoma, into a museum.

The Club's mission since its establishment in the 1930s was to create an intertribal organization to raise awareness of Native history and communities, foster better communication between Nations, strengthen social ties, and meet the needs of their underserved population.

Throughout the Dust Bowl and the Second World War, the Da-Co-Tah women raised money for the Murrow Orphanage, the Drought Relief Fund, the Unemployment Fund, and the Salvation Army, as well as providing services for impoverished children and Native families.

Out of their desire to celebrate Native identity and encourage intertribal cooperation, they envisioned a museum that would showcase the cultures and art of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma - the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole - together. And as part of their vision, they would preserve the building that had once housed the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory. The building itself would commemorate the terrible history of the Removal period, the Trail of Tears, and the struggles and survival of the Five Tribes in Oklahoma afterward.

During the 20th century, the Agency Building had passed from the BIA to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation who used it as a school for Creek Freedmen. The Creeks gave it to the city of Muskogee in 1909 as part of Honor Heights Park, and then the city gave it back to the federal government during WWII to be part of the veteran's hospital complex that still stands next door. Seeking to transfer the building back to the town of Muskogee, the Da-Co-Tah Club sponsored a bill in the US House of Representatives with Muskogee-born US Rep. Ed Edmonson in 1954.

The House Bill was signed by President Eisenhower in 1955, the building was restored entirely by privately donated funds raised by the Club, and the Museum was opened in 1966.

Today, the Five Civilized Tribes Museum displays historical exhibits on the ground floor and its art collections upstairs. Many of the Five Tribes' most famous artists have pieces on view, and the Museum owns the world's largest collection of works by Jerome Tiger (Muscogee Creek-Seminole). There is a library and archive upstairs, but it is open by appointment only.

The Museum hosts a yearly Masters Art Show in November and a Student Art Show (grades 7-12) in March. The "Art Under the Oaks" Art Market happens in April, around the time of the Azalea Festival in the adjoining Honor Heights Park.

1 comment:

  1. Great story and I hope this year in November the Masters Art Show and a Student Art Show would have been nice shows to people. Thanks for the nice story. deals for cheap park and fly