Wednesday, March 23: This morning, Martha and I pack up and take off for Oklahoma City. Her husband takes this parting shot of us in front of her house.
When we cross the Oklahoma state line, we stop at a Visitor Center to use the restroom and collect some brochures for our time in Oklahoma City. The woman there tells us we should absolutely visit the Chickasaw Cultural Center about an hour and a half south of Oklahoma City. It would be nice if we could simply stop there on our way to Oklahoma City, but we have to be at the airport at a certain time to pick up our friends Louise and Charlene. Maybe they’ll be interested in going one of the next two days.
We arrive at our house in Plano and settle in while waiting for Charlene and Louise’s plane to arrive. This is an Airbnb house where we’ll stay for the next four nights.
Martha and I go to the airport to pick up Charlene and Louise. They texted us earlier that their plane was delayed leaving Chicago because of high winds in Oklahoma City. They texted us when they finally left, nearly an hour behind schedule.
When they finally get off the plane, they’re quite shaken. The plane came in for a landing, lurching side-to-side in high winds. It touched down on the runway momentarily and then went back up again because of extremely windy conditions. Then it circled around and the second time landed successfully to the cheering of white-knuckled passengers.
We take Louise and Charlene back to the house to unload their luggage after stopping at the grocery store for some food supplies. It takes them a while to relax after that harrowing landing.
After about an hour, we all go to our friend Rosie’s house for a lasagna dinner. We haven’t seen her in a long time, and we’re excited to meet her fiance, Jim. Martha already met him as she doesn’t live that far from them. Rosie has known Jim for years through her work. Sadly, her first husband and the father of her three grown children died in 2013 of pancreatic cancer. Jim seems to be smitten by Rosie, and both of them are happy and excited about their wedding on Saturday. We have a great time drinking wine, reminiscing about old times, and eating a delicious dinner.
Thursday, March 24: This morning, we take a trip to the Chickasaw Cultural Center, supposedly about an hour and 40 minutes from our house. It actually takes nearly two hours. It was pretty foolish of us to make such a long trip when Martha and I were in the car all day yesterday and Charlene and Louise spent all of yesterday traveling. Martha and I had been bowled over by the woman’s enthusiasm about the museum at the Visitor Center yesterday.
When we finally arrive, we’re greeted by the Chickasaw Warrior. “The Warrior” captures a time before European contact in 1540. It is said that tashka’ Chikasha (translated to mean “Chickasaw warriors”) were fierce in battle, and “The Warrior” powerfully represents the Chickasaw people’s “unconquered and unconquerable” spirit.
We eat a delicious lunch at the center’s Aaimpa’ Cafe, where all of us order the Chickasaw Special: Indian taco, pishofa (corn and fresh pork), grape dumplings, and a drink. The taco is fry bread topped with ground beef, beans, lettuce, cheese, tomato and onions.
After lunch, we wander around through the Chikasha Inchokka’ (“Chickasaw house”) Traditional Village, a recreation of a historical Native American village. It features a Council House, two summer houses, two winter houses, a replica mound, a corn crib, a stickball field and a stockade fence.
At one time, a Chickasaw town was made up of several clans with many households. Some houses faced east toward the rising sun in spiritual devotion.
Chickasaw artist Mike Larsen, renowned for American Indian art, created the bronze sculpture, “The Arrival,” to commemorate the Chickasaws’ arrival to new territory after removal from their original homeland. Though a painful period in Chickasaw history, the true message of “The Arrival” is hope and resilience.
At the Chikasha Poya Exhibit Center, we walk through the Mosaic Room, featuring a wall of bright mosaic tiles imported from Scuola Mosaicisti Del Friuli in Spilimbergo, Italy.
We come across a map of Oklahoma showing the different tribal jurisdictions.
In the Exhibit Gallery, we stroll through Chickasaw history with Native American interactive stations, reproductions and graphic and text displays.
The Chickasaw people preserved their history through oral tradition. They combined their stories with recent research into the archaeological and other written records. It isn’t a complete story as many stories have been lost and documents can be misleading or wrong.
We go into one building that focuses on the legend of the white dog. Chickasaw storytellers tell of a large, beautiful white dog that protected the Chickasaw people during their migration from the “land of the setting sun” to their historic homeland in present-day Mississippi. Darting to the right, then to the left, the white dog alerted people to trouble along the path and healed people who had been bitten by snakes by licking the poison from the wound. He guarded the people at night while they slept and walked ahead of them during the journey to scout for possible danger. Sadly, the beloved white dog was lost to the Chickasaw people as they crossed the Mississippi River. Today, the white dog remains a symbol of strength and courage and reminds people of the importance of loyalty and friendship.
The Itti’ Anonka’ Nannakat Oktani (“Spirit Forest”) exhibit recreates the Chickasaw’s treasured bond with the natural world.
The Removal Corridor guides us along the difficult route thousands of Native Americans took after President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
As we walk around the sacred fire in this larger-than-life stomp dance, the dancers seem to move with us.
Finally, we watch a show of a live stomp dance.
Finally, we get in the car for our long drive back to Oklahoma City. Tonight, we’re meeting Rosie, Jim, and Rosie’s sisters at a local bar for dinner and drinks.