Native American Cultures in Oklahoma

There is a really good reason why Oklahoma is the first U.S. state that comes to mind when people think of Native American Indians. It is because the state is home to more than 67 Native American tribes. While they are already co-existing with modern American culture, these tribes still treasure and preserve their traditions, making Oklahoma a great place to visit, if you want a glimpse of the Native American Indians’ rich culture.

Defining Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s name originated from two words from the Choctaw tribe’s language: “Ukla,” which means person and “Huma,” which means red. The name of the place is therefore referring to “red person,” which is what people from their time use to describe Native Americans. Though in modern times, the english term may straddle the boundaries of political correctness, so it is best that you just use Oklahoma and never bring up the translation.

The state is known for a beautiful, if somewhat rough, geography that is characterized by high plains, small mountains, hills, and river basins – basically the kind of sceneries that people see from watching movies depicting the wild west.

Lives of Native Americans in Oklahoma

Most of the tribes that are now based in Oklahoma were only forced to migrate to the place by the army, so it can be a sensitive issue and one that must be avoided if you are not as well-versed in their extensive history. But once the tribes have migrated to Oklahoma, they have started to pattern their lives around the natural resources and materials that are readily available in the place, particularly with regard to food, clothing, and shelter.

While still holding true to their traditions and way of life, Native Americans in contemporary times have adapted and are now owners of many businesses and utilities provider in Oklahoma, with the larger tribes usually running casinos, gas stations, spa hotels, and usually manage museums that highlight their own culture.

Attractions to Visit in Oklahoma

If you really want to learn more about the cultures, traditions, and history of Oklahoma’s Native Americans, it is best to get it straight from the source – through the attractions that they themselves manage and curate. This includes:

The Cherokee Heritage Center

Situated in the foothills of Oklahoma’s Ozark Mountains, this museum will allow you to look at the Cherokee tribe’s past via numerous displays scattered throughout 44 wooded acres, all of which provide a first hand look at the Cherokee tribe’s life and early cultural practices before European contact.

Chickasaw Cultural Center

Located in a 100-acre Chickasaw-owned land in South Central Oklahoma, this grand cultural center features interactive exhibits, botanical displays, and traditional dwellings that give visitors a chance to see, feel, and even taste the Chickasaw life before they moved to Oklahoma.

Red Earth Art Center

If you are planning to drop by Oklahoma in June, the Red Earth Art Center is a great spot. They hold exhibits that display more than 1,400 art pieces that portray the history of the various Native American tribes that have settled down in Oklahoma, and it even includes a parade with representatives from different tribes overtaking the streets of Oklahoma while dressed in traditional native American regalia.

There are more places due for a visit in Oklahoma if you are the slightest bit interested in Native American culture, and you should deign to visit most of them as long as you always keep in mind that you are the guest in their city, and that you must act accordingly and in line with how a visitor must act.

Getting to Know the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (or more commonly referred to as the Choctaw Nation) is one of the three federally recognized Choctaw tribes, along with the Mississipi Band and the Jena Band. While all three descended from a single Choctaw tribe, with the difference being the Choctaw Nation were the ones who were forcibly relocated to Indian Territory during the Trail of Tears.

These days, the Choctaw Nation has more than 223 thousand enrolled members, more than 84 thousand of them living within the state of Oklahoma, and half of which reside in areas under the Choctaw Nation’s jurisdiction.

The Choctaw Nation is one of the Native American tribes in Oklahoma that have a significant impact on the state’s economy, with the tribe employing more than 8,500 people all over the world, and the nation’s payroll amounting to $260 million per year. The Choctaw Nation is said to have contributed to raising the county’s per capita income to about $24,000.

The tribe is exemplary in their reversal of fortunes, having shown the ability to adapt their government and way of life despite being uprooted from their homelands. They are currently operating many businesses across the country, including several casinos, truck stops, tribal smoke shops, and even a printing business, a drug testing facility, hospice care, metal manufacturing and fabrication, and a management services that provide staffing to many government facilities. While one could not envy the tragedy their ancestors suffered during the trail of tears, you cannot help but feel admiration for how they managed to come out on top in the end.

The History and Culture of Oklahoma

Oklahoma is considered as the real land of Indians and Cowboys in the United States. Despite the fact that most of the Native Americans who live in Oklahoma were only forcibly relocated in the state, their presence still serves as the building blocks for the history and culture of the state. Oklahoma is the place you need to go to if your idea of a vacation includes cattle ranchers, cowboys, and rich native american culture.

Origin of the Name

The name Oklahoma is said to have originated from the Choctaw Tribe, and is roughly translated as “red people.” The state’s history has an unpleasant connection to Native American tribe history, as the Five Civilized tribes and the Cherokee Nation were forcibly relocated to the state from their real home in the East. Many Native Americans have already settled in and moved on, but it is best for tourists not to bring it up or to avoid asking about it as it is understandable for many elders to still harbor resentment over the relocation.

The large population of Native Americans in Oklahoma (the largest in the entire United States) consist of several different tribes who were forced to relocate to the state during the 19th Century. The most famous of which are the Cherokee and the Choctaw. The latter was the first tribe to be moved to the state in 1831, while the Cherokee are the more popular because they were forced to walk to the state via the Trail of Tears road. This road serves as a reminder for Americans today of the unfair treatment that the Native Americans suffered from the hands of their ancestors.

Despite the tragic history, Oklahoma these days is thriving and many Native American tribes own establishments and businesses in the state, consisting of everything from retail shops, gas stations, resorts, and even Casinos. The state also plays home to a thriving cattle industry, which is where people will get their fill of the stereotypical Hollywood rendition of cowboys rustling horses and cattle.

It will be difficult to visit the state without encountering things that are not related tocows and cowboys, because Oklahoma is a thoroughfare for cattle trails from the early 20th century up to present day. The state itself is one of the main centers for the US when it comes to livestock trading, but visitors can expect to have a friendly welcome from the locals who are already accustomed to being considered as the “cowboy state.”

The Chickasaw Indians in Oklahoma

Out of all the states in the US, none may have as rich a history as the state of Oklahoma. This is owed to the fact that Oklahoma is a melting pot of different cultures, and was originally home to different tribes of Native Americans. One of these is the Chickasaw Nation.

A member of the Five Civilized Tribes (alongside the Cherokee, the Seminole, the Choctaw, and the Muscogee,) the Chickasaw Indians were originally occupying territories around Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee and resisted European-American Settlers. However, they were eventually forced by the US to sell their country in 1832, and have since moved to Oklahoma.

Origin of the Name

The name Chickasaw, originally spelled as “Chikashsha,” means “rebel,” according to anthropologist John Swanton. It can also mean “comes from Chicsa,” as noted by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. De Soto was impressed when he first came across the Chickasaw, amazed that they have an agrarian society with a very sophisticated governmental system with its own complex laws and religions. De Soto also noted that the Chickasaw tribe already lived in towns.


The language used by the Chickasaw is part of the Muskogean family, and is characterized as agglunative (complex words can be formed by stringing together different morphemes, without changing their spelling or pronounciation.) The language is unique because it uses the Subject/Object/Verb word order pattern (By way of comparison, English uses Subject/Verb/Object.) Fortunately for tourists, most Chickasaw Indians today can speak and understand plain English, so talking to them will not be difficult.

The Tribe in Modern Times

The current Chickasaw Nation is doing well, with the tribe being legally recognized by the US Government and currently the owner of 2 off-track wagering facilities, 7 gas stations, 2 bingo stalls, 18 casinos, 18 tribal smoke shops, and 2 truck stops. The tribe also own and operate several other commercial establishments outside of Oklahoma, including radio stations, hotel suites, gaming establishments, and even a spa in Texas. The tribe has an annual economic impact amounting to $13.9 billion.

Learning More About the Chickasaw Nation

Aside from their gaming establishments, the Chickasaw also operate several historical sites and museums, which may be the ideal place for people who want to learn more about their tribe’s storied past. These historical sites include the Chickasaw Cultural Center, the Chickasaw Nation Capitols, and the Kullihoma Grounds.

Cherokee Culture in Oklahoma

If you are visiting Oklahoma, you should be aware that it is a place of diverse cultures, and that cultural awareness is vital if you don’t want to make a nuisance of yourself during your stay there. Oklahoma has a heavy Indian population consisting of almost 40 federally-recognized tribes. One of the five largest tribes is the Cherokees, and it may be a good starting point if you want to be acquainted with Oklahoma’s rich and diverse cultural landscape.

Pronunciation and Meaning

While Native Americans are generally polite and will understand if you mispronounce their tribe’s name, you should still put in the effort. Cherokee is pronounced as “Chair-uh-kee.” It is a Muskogee word that translates roughly to “speakers of another language.”

What Language Do they Speak?

The Cherokees’s native language is very complex and relies on soft sounds, which would make it very difficult for foreigners to learn immediately. A couple of words you can learn is “osiyo”, which is a friendly greeting and “wado,” which means thank you. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through all this trouble as most Cherokees these days speak English.

What Are the Gender Roles in a Cherokee Tribe?

The Cherokee Indians were very progressive even in the past, with men and women having an even division of roles and authority. While men were in charge of hunting and war, and had an authority to make political decisions, the women were in charge of property, farming, family, and were responsible for making social decisions. These days, the Cherokees have made even greater strides as they now allow Cherokee women to become chiefs, and some men also work as farmers.

Cherokee Legends and Folk Tales

People who love hearing folk stories straight from the people who own them should be glad to know that the Cherokees have many traditional legends and fairy tales, as storytelling is a very important part of their culture. If you can befriend them, you may get to hear a few.