Six American Indians with Oklahoma ties head prominent museums spotlighting Native American culture. Unfortunately, none of those museums is in Oklahoma.
Another National American Indian Heritage Month came and went in November without a plan to complete the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum near downtown Oklahoma City. The facility lies unfinished while visitors stream to Indian museums elsewhere run by Oklahomans. This could be the year that state leaders find the will and the way to finish a first-class museum in the state most identified with Indian culture.
Kevin Gover, a Pawnee, is director of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. Rick West (Cheyenne) is executive director of the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles. Patsy Phillips (Cherokee) heads the Institute for American Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, N.M. James Pepper Henry (Kaw, Creek) is director and CEO of the Heard Museum in Phoenix. John Haworth (Cherokee) is director of the National Museum of the American Indian's Heye Center branch in New York City. Della Warrior (Otoe-Missouria) is director of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe.
What these individuals have in common, beyond their Indian blood, is that they either grew up in Oklahoma or have strong ties to the state. Most of them at one time or another worked at the NMAI. Henry, Warrior, Phillips, Gover and West, interviewed for a feature published Dec. 28 in The Oklahoman, expressed strong support for completion of the AICCM.
We share that sentiment. With the tab for what's been spent on AICCM to date approaching $100 million, let's turn a dream into reality and finish what we started. Let's do this in 2014.
Let's bring a Smithsonian-quality museum and cultural center to the banks of the Oklahoma River, and show the nation the rich heritage that's flowed through this state from long before statehood.