As much as we relish adventure in far off places, our own state is full of so many captivating places and stories. I want my kids to grow up with an understanding of how history and culture shape life today. It isn’t practical for us to dig deep into the history of every state. It is, however, very practical for us to dive into Oklahoma history. We’ve been studying events that shaped American history like westward expansion and the Indian Removal Act. It is one thing to read about those things, it is something totally different to visit a place that makes those events and stories come to life.
We loaded up the kids for a few days in southern Oklahoma, namely Chickasaw Country. Last fall we visited the area, but were not able to make all the stops we wanted. On the top of our list of places to visit was the Chickasaw Cultural Center.
We weren’t sure what to expect. I think we were all surprised by the beautiful facility and how welcoming every person we met was to us. It is always fun to be in a place where everyone smiles and says hello.
One area of the grounds includes an exhibit center. We were able to watch a short video telling the story of the Chickasaw people. My kids are much more apt to watch a video than read signs, so I was grateful to start our tour there. After the video, we explored various exhibits related to the past and present of the Chickasaw people.Outside were several areas for exploring and burning some energy.
The highlight of the visit for the kids was the Chikasha Inchokka’ Traditional Village (a historically accurate replica of a Chickasaw village). My kids ran around imagining what life would have been like and picking the roles they might have had if they lived in a Chickasaw community hundreds of years ago.The boys sat around a ‘campfire’ and decided one of the best parts of living in a village must have been everyone gathering as a community around the fire at night. When Corbett and I were in Ecuador we had many of the same thoughts. Closely living and working together is something lost in most modern day communities. There is much to be said about the value and beauty of life lived in community.My youngest son claimed this dugout canoe as his. He told us he could sleep there all day. While everyone else was going in and out of the village buildings, he just laid in the canoe. He makes me laugh.We stretched the kids comfort level a bit and encouraged them to try traditional indian food. There is a cafe on the grounds and everyone ordered some form of an indian taco. They were all surprised how much they really liked lunch. Hey kids, you should listen to your mom regarding trying new foods more often!There is a pond stocked with massive catfish and other fish. I was looking for quarters to buy fish food when a sweet woman started handing all my kids quarters. She turned to me and said she doesn’t get to go to places like this with her grandkids, so it would make her happy to buy fish food for my kids. I’m going to remember to do stuff like that one day.We finished our time by watching traditional stomp dances. The dancers asked for volunteers to join them for a community dance. Four of my kids were not about to join them. My youngest and her dad, well, they were not about to stay in their seats. Offer them the chance to be on stage and have fun – they won’t pass it up. I watched her – so captivated by her bravery and confidence. The shy timid toddler she once was is far gone.
She was the only little one to join the dance and those watching smiled at her cute little self up there. Everything went well until the dance changed up partners and she was no longer holding her daddy’s hand. In a matter of seconds, he swooped her up and she finished nestled in his arms. It is her favorite place to be…when she is happy, sad, scared or tired. Daddy’s arms since day one together.