Oklahoma is unique in that we have many sovereign nations within our borders, each with a complex history and beautiful traditions. Explore the different Native American headquarters and landmarks within easy driving distance of Tulsa this summer.
Cherokee Nation (Tahlequah)
The Cherokee Nation has been rooted in its capital, Tahlequah, and 14 surrounding counties since the early 1800s. The Cherokee Nation is the largest sovereign tribal nation in the U.S., with more than 240,000 citizens in Oklahoma.
“From building infrastructure, museums, public school classrooms to street signs in Cherokee syllabary, you can’t drive through a town in northeastern Oklahoma without seeing Cherokee influence,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “We were here before Oklahoma statehood and we continue to thrive as a Nation here making Indian Country, as well as the state of Oklahoma, a better place to grow up, work, raise a family and share our unique culture and diversity.”
The 67th Cherokee National Holiday, a celebration to commemorate the signing of the tribe’s constitution in1839, runs Labor Day weekend with a parade emceed in the Cherokee language, art and food vendors, a powwow, traditional Cherokee games, and a State of the Nation speech by the principal chief.
The Cherokee National Capitol
101 S. Muskogee Ave., Tahlequah
The Cherokee National Capitol, which will become the Cherokee National History Museum, was built in 1869 to commemorate the Cherokees’ achievement of overcoming the struggles of removal and relocation. The building is currently closed and undergoing renovations, which should be complete this year.
Cherokee National Prison Museum
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
Adults, $5; seniors and students, $3;
younger than 5, free
124 E. Choctaw St. Tahlequah
The Cherokee National Prison Museum, built in 1875 to hold “the most hardened criminals in Indian Territory,” now houses a site exploring the history of Cherokee law enforcement and famous outlaws.
Cherokee Heritage Center
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, Sept. 16-June 14; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, June 15-Sept. 15
Adults, $8.50; seniors and college students, $7.50; children K-12, $5; younger than 5, free
21192 S. Keeler Drive, Park Hill
The Cherokee Heritage Center was built on the original site of the Cherokee National Female Seminary in 1967.
WHAT: Clinton also pointed out the Saline Courthouse, the only remaining of nine rural CN courthouses built in the 1880s, as a site of interest. Clinton said the courthouse is also undergoing renovation after years of neglect, suffering vandalism at the hand of teens, but she was not sure when they would be complete.
WHERE: The Saline Courthouse is about 8 miles east of Locust Grove near the Mayes/Delaware County line. Find directions online at www.salinecourthouse.net.
WHEN: Closed for renovations.
Tourists should also be sure to visit the tribe’s government office at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex, 17675 S Muskogee Ave. in Tahlequah and the John Ross and Supreme Court museums, 22366 S 530 Road in Park Hill and 122 E Keetoowah St. in Tahlequah, respectfully. Unique Cherokee art and shopping can be found in the Cherokee Arts Center and Spider Gallery, 212 S Water Ave. in Tahlequah and Cherokee Nation Gift Shop, 17725 S Muskogee Ave. in Tahlequah. For coffee, sandwiches and some traditional-inspired foods, visit Kawi Café, 215 S Muskogee Ave. in Tahlequah, or if you’re looking for meat, vegetables and fry bread, check out the Restaurant of the Cherokees, 17793 US-62 in Tahlequah.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation (Okmulgee)
45th Muscogee (Creek) Nation Festival
June 21-22. Free to attend.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Claude Cox Omniplex, various locations in town.
The festival has concerts and a carnival, one of the largest all-Indian rodeos in the country, craft and food vendors and sporting events.
6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Free for citizens and employees of any Native American tribe.
200 Preston Drive, Okmulgee
The newly renovated Muscogee Dome serves as a recreation center for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Council House
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Free.
106 W. Sixth St., Okmulgee
After a fire destroyed a two-story, log council house built in 1867, a stone structure was built in 1978 to hold the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s new government. It now houses a museum and gift shop.
Osage Nation (Pawhuska)
Osage Nation Museum
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Parking and admission are free; donations are accepted.
819 Grandview Ave., Pawhuska
Dedicated in 1938, the Osage Nation Museum is the oldest tribal-owned museum in the United States. The museum is dedicated to the history and culture of the Osage people.
Osage Nation Visitors Center
7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Free admission.
602 E. Main St., Pawhuska
Completed in November 2018, the Osage Nation Visitor Center serves as the gateway to the reservation. Visitors can get information and see tribal art. Emde said most visitors who come in already have an idea of where they’re headed, such as The Pioneer Woman Mercantile or The Swinging Bridge, but they seem to be especially drawn to a bison statue out front painted by artist Yatika Fields. An iPad bar allows visitors to access old photographs and a couple of language-learning apps.