New Shawnee Tribe Cultural Center to Open

Posted by Marnie Leist on 10/05/2018

“It’s a dream come true,” exclaimed 2nd Chief Ben Barnes. “The Shawnee Tribe has worked for years to create a place where we can tell our own story. Located next to the Oklahoma Visitors Center on Eight Tribes Trail, we have created an inviting space for people of all heritages to explore Shawnee culture. Through hands-on exhibits and programs, we aim to our honor tribal heritage and encourage visitors to the area to learn more about Native American history and ways of life. This endeavor took the collaboration of many partners and broad support from the community.” 

On November 10 at 10am, Chief Ron Sparkman will lead the ribbon cutting ceremony and the doors will be open. Visitors are invited to participate in the Shawnee Tribe Culture Center’s first exhibit: From Ancient Hands: Stories in Fire and Clay. The exhibit is about the rediscovery of ancient ways of making clay vessels, traditional foodways, and the scientific studies of what these pots can tell us about Shawnee ancestors. The interactive exhibit allows patrons to gather, create, and share their own perspectives.

 “We really wanted to focus on the technology and science of Shawnee ancestor pottery,” explained Director Marnie Leist. “Ancient people understood how to create functional and durable pots. Our efforts to recreate what is called Fort Ancient style vessels were not always successful. Ancestors knew more than we did for sure. We partnered with people from a variety of disciplines to learn about Fort Ancient pottery, including Wyandot potter Richard Zane Smith, Kentucky Archaeological Survey and many others.”

In the exhibit, visitors will be able to not only see ancient pots, contemporary vessels made by community members, but also ancient fragments through a Wentzscope, an easy-view microscope. “Visitors will be able to compare Fort Ancient sherds with other pottery fragments from around the world,” said Natalie Wadle, Exhibit and Program Manager. Visitors can simply view the sherds to make visual comparisons, or sit down and learn about material science.” Leist continued, “employing STEAM based activities was challenging, but very rewarding. I’ve learned about ratios, how mussels reproduce, and the science behind certain foods such as hominy. I think there is something here for everyone.” 

Visitors may also shop the Shawnee Tribe Culture Center’s Store. “For the past six months I have been working with several Shawnee artists and artists from neighboring tribes to include work that reflects the mission of the cultural center,” said Store and Visitor Services Manager Kenny Glass. “The store will be a place that serves locals as well as our visitors. Along with unique handmade items, we will also carry logo gear and craft supplies such as beads and custom ribbon. There is a lighthearted feel for much of what we have to offer, such as funny stickers and buttons using Shawnee words and phrases.”

The Shawnee Tribe Cultural Center mission is to be the place for Shawnees to tell the story of the Shawnee past, how that informs and shapes Shawnees today, and who we see ourselves becoming tomorrow. Located at 19 N. Eight Tribes Trail in Miami, OK, hours after November 10 will be Tuesday-Friday 10-4 and Saturday 1-4.