On September 9, 2016, the Wyandotte Nation opened their new Cultural Center in Wyandotte, Oklahoma.
During the opening ceremonies, Wyandotte Nation Chief Billy Friend said: “We know this is something that is not only going to benefit our generation, but generations to come. We as Wyandotte people, because of our forced removal and our trail here, like many other tribes we lost a lot of our culture, our traditions and our ceremonies. They were not dead, but had laid dormant for many years.”
“Many of us grew up not knowing what it meant to be Wyandotte. So many of us did not have the benefit that our children and our grandchildren are going to have today – learning what it is to be Wyandotte and knowing what that actually means, knowing their identity, knowing where they came from, knowing their family, and knowing their ancestors,” he continued.
The center includes exhibits of artifacts representing cultural periods defined by archaeologists and renamed by the Wyandotte.
According to the exhibit, “We know little of these ancient lifeways — any traces of them in our stories have been lost. Now our only evidence is found in carefully flaked stone tools and the bones of animals hunted for food and fur.”
It’s enormously gratifying to know that archaeology can contribute to restoring the Wyandotte—and other tribes—understanding of where they came from. And as the writer James Baldwin observed, “If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.”
Funding for the $1,687,000 project came from an Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) and from economic development provided by the Wyandotte Nation’s federally-chartered corporation, Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma (WTOK).
Photos by William Swaim.