Thoughts of Oklahoma lend back to the time when American bison roamed wild and free across the flowing oceans of golden grass, of Native American tribes settling the land and of fiery sunset vistas draped in a layer of thick, red clay. Oklahoma remains a land of prairies, cowboys, and the like, tucked away in museums, heritage centers, and state parks. The history and science has been preserved and cultivated for you and your student group so pack a lunch, pack a bag, and head out to the Sooner State for an educational field trip like no other.
Located in eastern Oklahoma near the Arkansas River, Spiro Mounds is noted as a historically significant archaeological site for Mississippian prehistoric culture. Historians have discovered that the Spiro people who made this place home created and thrived in a political and religious center at Spiro Mounds between the 9th and 15th centuries. Discovered by treasure hunters in the 1930s and subsequently claimed by archeologists, Spiro Mounds is open today to visitors wishing for a deeper look into the lives of prehistoric Americans. Over 150 acres of land you'll find twelve earthen mounds and various reconstructed thatched houses while the Archaeological Center on site holds numerous artifacts pulled from the mounds as well as introductory information.
Cherokee Heritage Center
The world's premier heritage center for Cherokee culture and history is located in the heart of Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Built to provide education to the visiting public while preserving the true history of this proud nation, the Cherokee Heritage Center is perhaps the largest and most comprehensive collection of Cherokee artifacts and information. From the 1700s through present day, explore the halls and galleries of Cherokee history with topics ranging from the Trail of Tears to the newest addition, Diligwa, an outdoor living history exhibit showcasing a 1710 Cherokee Village, on the grounds of the museum.
Standing Bear Park, Museum, and Education Center
A tribute to Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe, Standing Bear Park and complex centers around the magnificent and moving 22 foot tall bronze statue of the historic chief. In 1879, the Ponca chief stood up to the U.S. District Court and argued the equality of all Native American tribes, equal to white men, and argued for the right to habeas corpus. The famous speech came about after a "mistranslation" which culminated in the U.S. government moving the Ponca tribe to Indian Territory, not to the Omaha Reservation. The Standing Bear Park and complex was built to remember the bravery and civil rights leadership of the notable man, commemorated on the park where he was believed to live over a hundred years ago. Explore the grounds, museum, and education center to learn more about the Ponca tribe and Chief Standing Bear.
Red Earth Museum
In the vibrant capital of Oklahoma City, the Red Earth Museum stands as one of the most visited and most popular museums in the state. Established to preserve, collect, and educate on the art and culture of American Indians, the Red Earth Museum supports educational programs and tours of their facility. With a permanent collection of over 1,400 artifacts and art, you can also find temporary exhibits from various accredited museums and heritage centers lending significant pieces. Find original basketry, textiles and beadwork among galleries showcasing modern day paintings and sculptures created by Native Americans, highlighting the evolution of identity and the continuity of culture. The museum also supports a gift shop where you can purchase all manner of authentic handmade Native American arts and craft from paintings and prints to books and more.
Oklahoma History Center
The state's official history center and located on the capitol complex, the Oklahoma History Center follows the entirety of the state's legacy from the earliest settlement to present day. Affiliated with the Smithsonian, you know you'll get only the best and brightest exhibits here. Journey through the massive 215,000 square foot architectural beauty and find five main galleries, several temporary exhibits, and a number of exterior galleries on the 18 acre grounds. The exhibit We Are Who We Are, in the ONEOK gallery, showcases the 38 federally recognized Native American tribes living in Oklahoma with artifacts and art, music, photographs, and personal stories. Find replicas of a Sod House, a 1930s House, and a 1950s Pink Kitchen in the Noble Foundation Gallery and then hop over to the Kerr-McGee gallery to explore the history of social inequality in Oklahoma of women, African Americans, Native Americans, and others.
Housing the world's largest collection of artifacts relating the story of the American West, the Gilcrease Museum is one of the state's most visited establishments. Moreover, the Gilcrease Museum is also a leading institution on the topics of Native American history as well as American history. Affiliated with the University of Tulsa, the Gilcrease Museum holds exhibits of over 10,000 artifacts, artwork, and more from across North America and into Mexico. Find exhibits on everything from the Paleo-Indian Period to the Civil War, early American fine art, and even artifacts such as copies of the Declaration of Independence signed by Ben Franklin and letters from Thomas Jefferson among others.
Honey Springs Battlefield
Fought July 17, 1863, the Battle of Honey Springs was one of the most climactic engagements in Indian Territory in the entire Civil War. Culminating in an effort of the Confederates to drive the Federals out of Fort Gibson, the battle ended with the Confederates in retreat and the Union soldiers holding their position. However, the battle was significant as it marked a turning point for Confederate strategy, opening up much of Arkansas and the capture of Fort Smith. Many call it the Gettysburg of Indian Territory for its brutality and pivotal movements. Today, the Honey Springs Battlefield marks 3,000 acres of Civil War history with interpretive trails, informational sites, and more.
Museum of the Western Prairie
Filled with history, intrigue, and all the trappings for the ultimate western novel, the Museum of the Western Prairie is a leading institution following the lives and deeds of Oklahoma's cowboys, pioneers, frontiersmen, and Native Americans. Focusing primarily on the area now known as southwest Oklahoma, the museum does not limit itself to modern history. Starting at the beginning, visit exhibits containing archaeological finds from the last Ice Age all the way to Civil War artifacts, Dust Bowl and Great Depression stories, and much more. Also find a plethora of information on the Plains Indians and the tempestuous struggle between the U.S. government and the Native American tribes.