Family Fun in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, Part 10: Chickasaw Nation

This is the tenth post about our family's visit to Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. I suggest that you read the firstsecondthirdfourthfifthsixthseventheighth, and ninth posts from the trip before this one. Because I blog about educational travel, some of the places mentioned below gave me free admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits. Other locations we toured are free for everyone. We paid full price for the rest. None of that has any bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I recommend without hesitation. If there are gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, hotel, or restaurant enough to recommend it, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.


Chickasaw Nation, Oklahoma

On Friday, April 14, we said goodbye to Oklahoma City and drove 84 miles south to the Chickasaw Nation to visit the Chickasaw Cultural Center

From looking at the website and talking with very helpful tribe leaders and Cultural Center employees before we traveled, I knew this was going to be a great destination. And then when the guest speaker at the Outlook Forum conference about California travel named the Chickasaw Cultural Center as the best success story of Native voices telling their own story, I knew it would be something special. You can't get a higher compliment than that. It is well-deserved. The Chickasaw Cultural Center is amazing. 

We began our visit at the Welcome Center, then admired the Leaning Stick. This statue represents the migration story of the Chickasaw people

The Chikasha Poya ("We Are Chickasaw") Exhibit Center is beautiful. It tells the history and culture of the Chickasaw people. The exhibits are very well done and have lots of interesting information. 


The Chickasaw language features prominently throughout the entire Cultural Center. When we first drove in, we were greeted in Chickasaw and then in English. It's such a simple thing, but it's meaningful and it's important. 

There is so much to see in the Exhibit Center. 

The Removal Corridor is particularly powerful. 

I always love hands-on stuff. Here you can see three types of rattles worn by Chickasaw dancers during their traditional Stomp Dance

We got to see several dances in the theater. It was really neat. 

We had an excellent lunch in the Aaimpa' Café. This is the Chickasaw Special. The entree is an Indian Taco on frybread. The side is pashofa (cracked-pearl hominy and pork) and for dessert, sweet grape dumplings. 

Stuffed full of delicious food, we headed outside to see the rest of the enormous campus. Here, you can see one of the visiting school groups headed toward the Chikasha Inchokka' Traditional Village. It includes a Council House, summer and winter homes, a mound, a stickball field, gardens, and more. 

Beyond the Village is the 195-foot Inkana ("Friend") Bridge

It spans Rock Creek and links the Chickasaw Cultural Center with the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. It also symbolizes the partnership the Center has with the National Park Service. 

The next stop was the 20,000 square foot library, Holisso ("Book"). Everything in the collection relates to the Chickasaw Nation and other tribes in the Southeastern US. 

See the mannequin in front of the book stacks? I enjoyed getting a close look at her traditional ribbon dress with super cool beading. 

There's a lot to see just in the library. I hope by now you're getting a sense of just how large and impressive the Chickasaw Cultural Center is. 

There's a separate building where family heirlooms and other cultural treasures are preserved. We didn't get to see that, but loved learning about it. 

Believe it or not, there's still more at the Chickasaw Cultural Center. 

Beyond it is the Aaholiitobli' ("A Place to Honor") Honor Garden. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to see it, but follow the link to learn more and see the stunning photos. 

The Chickasaw Cultural Center is a special place. We loved our experience there and highly recommend it. We were there for nearly 4 hours; you should plan to spend at least that long. It's truly a treasure. 

Our next stop was a very quick one. I'd heard that people go 100+ miles out of their way to stop at Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies. It wasn't out of our way at all, so I added it to the list as a must-visit.   

They sell upwards of 3000 hand pies a day. We were responsible for two of those on April 14th. We chose a blackberry and a pineapple. They have savory pies too. 

We were way too full from our Chickasaw lunch to eat the pies, so we saved them for later. They were fantastic!

We had one more quick stop to make in Oklahoma before crossing the border into Texas. Turner Falls is the largest waterfall in Oklahoma. There's a whole park there with water activities, hiking, caves, camping, etc. but we just went to the free overlook. 

It would have been nice to stay longer and explore the park, but we had a tight timeline. Tomorrow I'll tell you what we were hurrying to see. 

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