April 11, 2017

Oklahoma's Native American History, Told At Its Historic Sites

Once known as Indian Territory, Oklahoma is home to nearly 40 federally recognized Native American tribes. Today there are numerous museums, cultural sites, and statues paying homage to the tribes and their histories. Below are four sites you can explore in northeast Oklahoma.

Bacone College Campus Building

photo by: Kristi Eaton

Bacone College

Chartered by the Muscogee-Creek Nation in 1881, Bacone College was originally known as Indian University. It was the state’s first college, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. The school was created to provide a Christian education for Native Americans. In 1885, the college moved to its present-day campus in Muskogee. One of the college’s presidents, B.D. Weeks, recruited American Indian faculty and staff who created classes about Native American culture.

Atola Lodge

photo by: Kristi Eaton

The exterior of Ataloa Lodge.

Ataloa Lodge

The Ataloa Lodge was constructed in 1932 as an art lodge. The interior fireplace was built with 500 stones sent from all over the U.S., representing places with strong Native American ties.

Also located on campus is the 7-foot-tall statue of the Chickasaw Warrior. Created by Bacone College alumni, former Seminole Nation principal chief, and Oklahoma lawmaker Enoch Kelly Haney, the statue was placed on campus in 2011, according to the school’s newspaper. Haney told the newspaper it represents the unconquered and unconquerable spirit of the Chickasaw people.

Chickasaw Warrior

photo by: Kristi Eaton

Statue near the Creek Council Oak Tree

photo by: Kristi Eaton

The Creek Council Oak Tree

The Creek Council Oak Tree is where the Locapoga clan of the Creek Indian Nation established its home in 1836 after being forcibly removed from its ancestral homelands in the Southeast. The ashes from the last council fire in their homelands were placed under the tree and used to start a new fire. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


photo by: Kristi Eaton

Across the street from the Creek Council Oak Tree stands a statue of kids playing pokkecetv, a stickball game. Historically men played the game, but a social form of it—known as Single Pole game—involves adults and kids, as portrayed in the statue.

Female Seminary

photo by: Kristi Eaton

The Cherokee National Female Seminary

Twelve years after the Cherokees were relocated to Indian Territory during the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee Female Seminary opened. It was the first public institution of higher education for women west of the Mississippi River when it opened on May 7, 1851. Unfortunately, on April 10, 1887, a fire destroyed the building. The seminary was rebuilt years later and later became part of Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.

Today, three columns still stand where they once stood at the front of the seminary. The columns are on the grounds of the Cherokee Heritage Center.

Kristi Eaton is a roving journalist, communications strategist and author of the book "The Main Streets of Oklahoma: Okie Stories From Every County." Visit her website at KristiEaton.com or follow her on Twitter to see photos from her travels.


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