Choctaw Cultural Center tells 14,000 year story
By Kellie Matherly
July 1, 2021
The much-anticipated opening of the Choctaw Cultural Center is scheduled for July 23. The Cultural Center, located on Highway 75 in Durant, Oklahoma, uses interactive and immersive exhibits and cutting-edge technology to tell the story of the Choctaw people, which spans over 14,000 years. More than a decade of research, planning and construction went into making the dream a reality.
“I am excited about the Cultural Center grand opening,” said Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton. “The Center embodies the Chahta Nowvt Aya, or Choctaw Journey, that we are proud to share with our tribal members, neighbors and friends.”
The building spans over 100,000 square feet and houses two exhibit halls, an art gallery, auditorium and children’s play area as well as a café and gift store. Guests will also be able to participate in seminars and hands-on workshops in the classrooms.
Even the smallest details have been crafted with the Choctaw people in mind. For instance, the diamond and basketweave designs throughout the main lobby reflect important elements of Choctaw tradition, and stone used for the floor around the Central Fire was quarried in Stigler, Oklahoma, located in the northern part of the reservation. Guests may also recognize some familiar faces as they make their way through the permanent exhibits. Living Choctaw tribal members are reflected in the life casts throughout the landscapes. These life casts, created from 3-D scans and plaster casts of tribal members, lend an even higher level of authenticity to the exhibits.
Children are precious to the Choctaw people, and the Luksi Activity Center was created especially for them, their families and anyone else who is young at heart. The room features two different styles of Choctaw dwellings as well as a log slide and a giant Luksi (turtle) where guests can sit and hear traditional stories.
The Center also includes a Changing Exhibition Gallery for traveling and community curated exhibits and special events. The inaugural exhibit in this gallery is called Long Ago: Stories of the Choctaw People. This exhibit is also designed to be an immersive experience.
A state-of-the-art collections area is devoted to caring for cultural items, collections and some of the Nation’s most important historical documents. This space is equipped with temperature and humidity-controlled storage units as well as a cold room for the decontamination of artifacts. In addition to interior protections, these priceless items are protected from the notoriously volatile southeastern Oklahoma weather by walls specifically designed to withstand storms and tornados.
Aside from the interactive landscapes and exhibits, guests can visit the Living Village just outside the main building, where they can see demonstrations of traditional Choctaw dances, stickball and a traditional heirloom garden. The Living Village also offers a walking path around a mound modeled after Nanih Waiya, the Mother Mound located in the Choctaw homelands.
“It is very humbling to have such a beautiful facility dedicated to sharing our rich Choctaw heritage and culture. Our ancestors are smiling upon us as we honor them and their path of the past and present. I’m confident that future generations of Choctaws and visitors alike will also come away with a sense of pride yet humbling experience,” said Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr.
For more information on the Choctaw Cultural Center or to plan a visit, go to choctawculturalcenter.com or call 833-708-9582.
Admission, Hours and Directions
- Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Tribal Members will have complementary admission;
- General Admission for Adults: $12
- Discounted Admission will be available for children, veterans, senior citizens, and college students.
- Hours: Wednesday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Closed: Monday and Tuesday
- The Choctaw Cultural Center is located at 1919 Hina Hanta Way Calera, OK 74730.
- The entrance to the Cultural Center is off Choctaw Road, west of the intersection of Choctaw Road and Highway 69/75 in Durant.