Hey friend – welcome back to another post! Today, we’re talking about the new First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City! The facility is beautiful and there is so much history inside. Let’s go look around!
*All photos used in this post were taken at the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City.
The First Americans Museum is a partnership between the State of Oklahoma and The City of Oklahoma City. A Chickasaw Nation subsidiary, the American Indian Cultural Center Foundation, and many donors have also helped make this museum a reality. The architects of the museum were Johnson Fain Architects: Master Planning and Building Concepts, Los Angeles and Hornbeek, Blatt Architects, Co-Prime, Edmond.
The First Americans Museum opened in 2021 and is 175,000 square feet! The building aligns with the cardinal directions which is significant during the winter and summer solstices and the spring and autumnal equinox. (FAM Website, FAQ Page)
The First Americans Museum Mission statement is “To serve as a dynamic center promoting awareness and educating the broader public about the unique cultures, diversity, history, contributions, and resilience of the First American Nations in Oklahoma today.” (FAM Website, About Page) The Museum believes in four core values: respect, reciprocity, relationships, and responsibility.
Indigenous History in Oklahoma
Many of the 39 nations which call Oklahoma home today were forcibly removed to the area throughout the Nineteenth Century. Though a few tribes were originally from the area.
Oklahoma became the 46th state to enter the Union in 1907. The word ‘Oklahoma’ combines two Choctaw words ‘Okla’ and ‘Homma’ which means ‘Red People.’ There are 12 linguistic families spoken in Oklahoma: Algonquian, Athapascan, Caddoan, Iroquoian, Tanoan, Muskogean, Penutian, Jiwere (Siouan), Dhegiha (Siouan), Tonkawan, Uchean, Uto-Aztecan. (FAM Website, FAQ Page)
The following 39 nations live in Oklahoma today: Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Caddo Nation, Cherokee Nation, Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes, Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Comanche Nation, Delaware Nation, Delaware Tribe of Indians, Eastern Shawnee Tribe, Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians, Fort Sill Apache Tribe, Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Kaw Nation of Oklahoma, Kialegee Tribal Town, Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, Kiowa Tribe, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, Modoc Tribe, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Osage Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Ottawa Tribe, Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, Sac & Fox Nation, Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, Seneca-Cayuga Tribe, Shawnee Tribe, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, Tonkawa Tribe, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, Wyandotte Nation. (FAM Website, FAQ Page)
TRAVEL TIP: Tribal Gallery Guides are linked HERE. The First Americans Museum website has PDF documents with consultation lists and specific interpretive items and cultural materials from each tribe.
The First Americans Museum had the following terms defined on a display. I thought this was very helpful, especially if you are not familiar with Indigenous histories.
There are three main exhibit halls in the First Americans Museum. Two are located on the first floor and the third is located on the second floor. OKLA HOMMA and Of the Earth: Creating First Americans Museum are located on the first floor. WINIKO: Life of an Object is located on the second floor.
The OKLA HOMMA exhibit is in the Tribal Nations Gallery on the first floor and covers 18,000 square feet. This gallery tells the stories of the 39 culturally distinct nations living in Oklahoma today. This space utilizes art, film, interactive media, and a large map on the floor. The gallery discusses origin stories, collective histories, (mis)representation, sports, warriors, and so much more. The museum worked with 39 tribes for over a decade to ensure that everything is accurate.
Pictured below are a few pieces and displays within the exhibit. There is so much more to read and look at in this space. I was very disappointed my memory card filled up half-way through this space… Please go visit this museum to see the rest of the displays!
WINIKO: Life of an Object
Winiko: Life of an Object is from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. According to the brochure, the objects offer “an opportunity to understand the importance of the creation collection and continued relevance of cultural materials today.” (FAM Brochure) This collection contains clothing, drums, and more. I did not take pictures in this space, but encourage you to go check it out!
Of the Earth: Creating First Americans Museum
This exhibit illustrates how the First Americans Museum came to be. There are blueprints and mini-models in the collection. The architectural significance is also explained which I thought was very interesting!
First Americans Museum Timeline
- 1994: Legislation Created Museum Agency
- 1994-2006: Site Remediation
- 2005: Ground Blessing
- 2008: Mound and Remembrance Walls Constructed
- 2010: Hall of People Constructed
- 2017: New Horizons
- 2021: Site Completion
I loved this museum – walking through the halls was an honor. I learned so much and plan to go back in the future. You should plan to spend at least a few hours in this museum. We read many of the signs, but didn’t have time to sit and listen to the videos and oral histories on this trip. On my next visit, I plan to sit and listen to everything. The small theater spaces were amazing and there is also a large theater included in museum admission – so be sure to keep that in mind when visiting. Please go check this museum out and take time to learn the history of the First Americans.
Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
659 First Americans Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK 73129
TRAVEL TIP: The Thirty Nine Restaurant and Arbor Cafe are located in the museum. Check the First Americans Museum website for restaurant hours and menus. Many of the dishes include “Native ingredients” and several “tribally-specific dishes” are served.