Indian cultural center: a worthwhile investment in Oklahoma's future

BY J. BLAKE WADE Published: April 28, 2012

Oklahoma is in a position unlike any other time in its history. With the renaissance of downtown Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma River transformation into a premiere rowing and sporting venue, along with increased visibility due to Oklahoma's Thunder basketball franchise, all eyes are on Oklahoma.

We've learned through years of studies that Oklahoma's cultural tourism industry has great potential for economic development and job creation. Those studies revealed that in order to be successful in cultural tourism, we must focus on two of the things that make Oklahoma so unique — the prevailing presence of cowboy and Western heritage and American Indian cultures.

Our population evolved in waves as America's history was being written. Today, more languages are spoken in Oklahoma than on the European continent. As a cultural crossroads, Oklahoma has been empowered by this great fusion of ideas, where creativity and collaboration merge. Cradles of jazz sprouted in Tulsa, Muskogee and Oklahoma City. Western heritage stars emerged as national celebrities on the radio and in Western cinema. Route 66 brought a newly mobile nation to our doorsteps. Will Rogers was a cowboy and a Cherokee Indian, as well as an icon of popular culture. As a state, we are unique, and unique is what sells.

Now's the time to invest in the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, Oklahoma's newest international attraction. Tourism is the third-largest industry in the state, with a $6.1 billion economic impact. According to the American Association of Museums, “Visitors to cultural and heritage destinations stay 53 percent longer and spend 36 percent more money than other kinds of tourists. Cultural centers employ more than a quarter-million Americans, who spend an estimated $14.5 billion annually, and rank among the top three family vacation destinations.”

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