Friday, March 25: This morning, we drive into Oklahoma City to see the sights, namely the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Bricktown, and The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. Louise, who retired from her career at the Virginia Zoo, wants to visit some people she knows at the Oklahoma City Zoo, so we drop her off there, while Martha, Charlene and I go to the National Cowboy Museum.
We first encounter a sad and defeated statue of a Native American slumped on a horse in an atrium-like room. In 1894, when James Earle Fraser completed his model of The End of the Trail, America stretched from shore to shore and most Euramericans believed the frontier expansion period was over. Many viewed Native Americans as a vanishing race with no place in the 20th century. Popular literature portrayed Indian people as “savages,” noble or otherwise. Fraser’s End of the Trail reflects this legacy: a nineteenth century Indian warrior defeated and bound for oblivion — frozen in time.
By the 1890s, Native Americans were confined largely to reservations ravaged by disease and starvation, and the Indian population declined dramatically. Indian children were forced to attend federally supported boarding schools that attempted to replace traditional tribal values with American culture. WWII brought changes to most Native American communities as many of them enlisted with the armed forces and others moved to urban areas for employment. From a low of about 250,000 in 1890, the Native American population in the U.S. now numbers slightly over two million. Modern Indian people combine the best of traditional tribal values with the opportunities afforded by contemporary American society. Unlike Fraser’s sculpture, “being Indian” has never been cast in stone (R. David Edmonds, Ph.D. – Cherokee: from a plaque at the museum).
First we walk through a fascinating photo gallery where we’re not allowed to take pictures. No photos are allowed in several other galleries, but we’re finally able to take pictures without flash in the Native American Gallery, where we find native clothing, headdresses, and teepees, as well as a weaving in memory of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Next is the fascinating Western Performers Gallery, which explores the ways the west has been interpreted in literature and film. Honoring western performers who have contributed to the making and preservation of western legends, the gallery displays, among others, the John Wayne collection of personal firearms, artwork, and memorabilia. It’s fun to wander through the extensive collection of movie posters and portraits.
We first encounter Robert Redford’s costume from the 1979 film, The Electric Horseman, in which he played a retired rodeo king who sells his soul to the devil to be a spokesman for a breakfast cereal.
Here’s a link where you can see Robert Redford in this get-up: Robert Redford in The Electric Horseman.
The American Cowboy Gallery interprets the cowboy’s history and culture from Spanish colonial times to the 20th century, especially his clothing and equipment.
The American Rodeo Gallery celebrates the history, people and events of the West’s truly indigenous sport.
The Joe Grandee Museum of the Frontier West presents the legacies of diverse peoples and historical currents in the 19th-century American West. The exhibit reflects Native American, early frontier, military and hunting activity.
Prosperity Junction is a replica of a turn-of-the-century cattle town with its own history and its own location ~ somewhere in the West. With the railroad’s arrival, the days of the raw frontier are fading as goods and services from the East transform it into a settled community. At its northern edge lies the town’s industrial section, including a railroad depot, blacksmith shop, and livery stable. At the south end are the social elements ~ the school, the church, and residences. Between those two extremes lay the bulk of the town’s business structures (National Cowboy Museum: Prosperity Junction).
The Norma Sutherland Garden, flanking the museum and the children’s interactive center, is a quiet oasis where one can sit and contemplate our western heritage.
The Western States Plaza
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens are a wonderful place for a stroll, especially on such a pretty day.
We find Buffalo Bill perched high atop Persimmon Hill.
The statue below is adjacent to the parking lot: Code of the West. Says a plaque: “The horse age lingers, and the ranchers still hold with the idea that a man works for what he gets, helps his neighbors and takes care of his own, and that a handshake and a man’s word are as good as his bond. Maybe even better.” — Spike Van Cleve.
We love this museum and wish we could linger longer. There is another whole wing we don’t even have time to visit, but Louise is finished at the zoo and we have several other places we want to visit today. Plus, we’re hungry for lunch. After picking up Louise, we head to Bricktown to eat some Italian food. 🙂