Chickasaw Cultural Center
Native American history is an intricate part of the backbone of the United States. In an era where traditions are beings lost. There is a group that is trying to bring back part of the traditions. The Cultural Resources Department for the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma in their effort to revitalize these traditions.
Tyra Lewis, a cultural instructor with the Chickasaw nation, is by having classes on traditional Native American and hopefully keeps these traditional methods alive within their society. “We all work as a group towards making the history come alive but we each have individual research projects. I, for example, am doing research on traditional housing, cooking, and cooking utensils.”
“I look to see what kind of materials are used in making meals and what kind of things they ate with. I look to see if the Chickasaw people used pottery or wooden bones to eat out of. I also look to see if bones were used as spoons and to see if the people used rocks as bowls for cooking.” “ Housing was also very important,” she explains, “for example crushed up oyster shells were mixed with another liquid to make a white was for the housing.” Although this may seem weird this wasn’t even the weirdest thing used to make colors. Tyra said, “I found out that duck feces make a beautiful color of blue.” This just goes to prove that these tribes really did use all the different parts of the animals and nothing went to waste… even the waste.
Tyra’s job includes recreating materials of the past. “I also make stuff for the gift shop and the gallery here in town.” Mrs. Lewis has made dance shoes that are used during the traditional stomp dance, traditional toys, and all kind of materials that were worn in era gone by. As soon as the Cultural Center is built Tyra will take on another job. “As soon as it is built I will become an instructor as well to people wanting to learn about all of the stuff and help them with arts and crafts.”
Lewis is also a member of the dance troupe that performs native dresses in full authentic Chickasaw garments. “This is a very fun experience,” states Tyra, “We go all over the Chickasaw nation and do dances at the events that go on such as festivals and special attractions that the Chickasaw put on. This is another good way of keeping the traditions alive and people seem to enjoy watching the dances go on.” Lewis isn’t the only one involved in the dance troupe. “My father is involved in the troupe as well so this is more of a family tradition type of thing. My sister was involved as well until she relocated to California.”
“ Peoples history should be looked up. A person’s lineage is something that can help provide important information about where a person has come from. This is one of those things that is important so we can pass on the knowledge to future generations and to make sure that these people’s proud history is never forgotten and hopefully more can be learned in the next few generations.” It is important that history is never forgotten so the future can be a better place. And these tribes are working to make sure their past is never forgotten.