FAM organizes the inauguration – MVSKOKE Media
“I’m so excited because it’s a joyous celebration. It’s ours. “- Lisa Johnson Billy, Master of Ceremonies
Gary Fife / Radio communications
OKLAHOMA CITY – It has been preparing for more than a quarter of a century. It has had its ups and downs in the process. State lawmakers and a few others had even called for the project to be stopped.
But, on September 18, 2021, the dream finally came true; The First Americans Museum opened its doors and welcomed a large crowd. It was previously called “The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum”, but staff and directors have decided to shorten it to “First Americans Museum” to make it more user-friendly.
The ceremonies began with prayer and the passage of the participants under a stainless steel arch which welcomes visitors. Representatives of the state’s 39 tribes, in traditional dress, walked through a large open hall to the assembly area. Singers from the Black Leggings Society drum group sang a song specially composed for the occasion. Indigenous musicians and artists also livened up the day with a full entertainment program.
Executive Director James Pepper Henry (Kaw-Mvskoke), stressed that the museum is a chance to share.
“We are delighted to share with the public a premier place dedicated to the history, art and cultural ways of life of the early Americans in Oklahoma.” Pepper said in his remarks that the relationship between the Natives and the museum had not always been positive. “
“Historically, museums were not friendly or welcoming places for early Americans,” he continued. “Many museums were, and still are, extensions of colonization, serving as depositories of the spoils of war and conquest by European nations over indigenous peoples around the world. For many Indigenous peoples, museums are reminders of what was taken and what was lost.
For Deputy Director Shoshanna Wassermann (Thlopthlocco Mvskoke), it was the completion of years of hard work and land repair.
“We had to plug the oil wells… it took a full year to rehabilitate the site. Said Wassermann.
Wasserman was credited with bringing together the bulk of the museum’s collection and, as Henry said, being a driving force for the entire project.
The Chickasaw Tribe and the Municipality of Oklahoma City played a major role in helping the project become a reality.
Many participants felt that the FAM would serve as a repository of the history of the indigenous people of Oklahoma, but also to remind visitors that indigenous peoples and sovereignty are still an integral part of the make-up and history of this state. today.
The FAM is located at the intersection of several federal interstate highways and is highly visible to passing traffic. It occupies a portion of land that was once the site of several oil wells. Henry noted that the project actually healed and repaired the site. The 40 acre physical layout at the gate faces the rising sun and contains alignment with the four directions.
Its most remarkable feature is probably the giant half-dome of glass and steel covering the Hall of the People. Inside are various galleries showcasing the art and cultures of the 39 tribes, exhibits of people and places, both positive and negative. To be more user-friendly, a restaurant, video screens, stages, souvenir shop and amenities are readily available.
The exhibits included historical displays of this state’s Indigenous history, notable Indigenous figures, artwork, and a carefully curated arrangement of negative images of Indigenous peoples. Interactive presentations showcased the hallways.
Staff have firmly maintained that there will be no human remains in their collections.
The museum will hold a special celebration on October 11 to honor Indigenous Peoples Day.
Lisa Johnson Billy, a former Oklahoma lawmaker, Native American assistant to the governor and cadre of the Chickasaw tribe served as emcee. She worked on the early legislative efforts to launch the project in the Oklahoma state legislature. For Billy, opening FAM was a great emotional experience.
“My heart is bursting. I’m so excited because it’s a joyous celebration. It’s ours, ”Billy said.
Entrance tickets are on sale. The museum will be open almost every day except Tuesday. Hours will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.