Oklahoma Historical Society works to preserve American Indian culture

BY MAX NICHOLS Published: February 24, 2013
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The Pawnee Bill Ranch interprets the story of American Indian involvement in Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show, said Erin Brown, curator of the ranch for OHS. A special exhibit is “Powerful Images: American Indians in Wild West Shows,” she said. The story of Pawnee Bill's relationship with the Pawnee also is told.

The George M. Murrell Home, built in 1845, is the only remaining pre-Civil War plantation in Oklahoma,” said Amanda Pritchett, OHS historical interpreter. Murrell married Minerva Ross, niece of Cherokee Principal chief John Ross, in 1834. They moved to Indian Territory and settled in Park Hill, three miles south of Tahlequah. They built the plantation mansion, known as the Hunter's Home, and lived there until the Civil War. Various Ross family members lived there for 50 years.

The Doaksville archaeological site stems from a trading post established by Josiah Doaks during the 1820s. With signing of the Dancing Rabbit Creek and Doaks Stand treaties, Doaksville became a major destination. With Fort Towson nearby, Doaksville became the largest town in Indian Territory in 1860 and the Choctaw Nation commercial center. Doaksville now is an interpreted archaeological site operated by OHS.

The Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur was established in 2010 by the Chickasaw Historical Society to capture, revitalize and share the essence of Chickasaw culture through archives, collections and research. The Museums, Archives and Libraries department honors generations of Chickasaw and works to carry on those traditions.

The Washita Battlefield, administered by the National Park Service, preserves the site of the 1868 Battle of the Washita near Cheyenne in Roger Mills County. Lt. Col. George A. Custer led the 7th Cavalry against Cheyenne, Arapaho and Kiowa at the village of Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, who was killed. The campaign continued into 1869.

“Working with these and other sites, we need to learn how Indian people want to record and share their history,” Blackburn said. “We will work with them no matter where collections are located and stored. The critical task is to collect and preserve those collections so they can be shared today and in the future.”

Max Nichols writes a monthly column for the Oklahoma Historical Society.


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