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New Directions: An Insider’s Look at Native American Collections

SAR President’s Circle members embarked on a five-day tour of Oklahoma and Arkansas in mid-October. Okla Homma, which means “red people” in Chickasaw and Choctaw, is home to thirty-nine tribes, including Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Osage, and Seminole. Though many arrived from the east in the early 1800s on the Trail of Tears or were otherwise forcibly relocated there, today these tribes own nearly half of the land in Oklahoma and are established members of American society—albeit with a complex and painful history.

Please enjoy this photo reflection from SAR President’s Circle member Aurelia Fleck as she recounts the highlights of the tour.


Wednesday, October 12, 2022

We have been on a whirlwind tour here in Oklahoma. The highlight of today was a tour of the Oklahoma Judicial Center led by Justice Yvonne Kauger (center in all black). She has helped secure over seventy works of Native American art for the Judicial Center. Following they served us cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in front of the thirty-nine tribal flags.

We also had tours at two other museums, the First Americans Museum and the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of art where we got to go in the vault and see art by the Kiowa Six.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

First we went to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City and had a private tour with Eric, head of acquisitions. He took us to the vault first to see amazing paintings and other works of art.

This is a bound sheaf of ledger paintings, one of only a few in existence.

These two shells were found at the Spiro Mound.

This is a deer hide with symbols representing an event for each day in a year’s worth of time.

Next on to the Seminole Museum in Wewoka where we were given a tour by an artist and a man from the Seminole government.

They had seven of ten bandolier bags made by a Seminole artist.

The days and nights are packed with information, made more dense by our Kiowa guide Tahnee, who rides with us everywhere.


Friday, October 14, 2022

Our day began meeting local Native American painter, muralist, graffiti artist, and long-distance runner, Yatika Starr Fields in his first studio. He likes to take a tube of paper plus minimal paints and brushes then travel to other countries to paint scenery using found items to help create the water color—such as water from local rivers, cups, and cardboard from trash cans.

At studio number two he’s working on a ribbon dance mural to be hung in the state Capital.










After lunch at a popular neighborhood pub, The Tavern, we went on to our 3 hour private tour of the Philbrook Museum of Art.

Our guide was Christina Burke, curator of Native American & Non-Western Art.  She had pulled a variety of items from their vault to share with us.


Saturday, October 15, 2022

We began our day at Tahlequah, the capital of the two federally recognized Cherokee tribes based in Oklahoma: the modern Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah band of Cherokee Indians.

We had a special tour in the vault of the Cherokee National Research Center a state-of-the-art facility that’s home to a collection of thousands of Cherokee artifacts and archives.

On to the…






After, members toured the home of Bob and Becky Alexander who used a third generation Frank Lloyd Wright architect to design the 6,500 square-foot home around their eclectic art collection. They hosted us for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres plus a tour of their art.


Sunday, October 16, 2022

We departed our hotel for a walk in the dark to an unassuming round building. Inside is an art installation by James Turrell called Skyspace: The Way of Color. You sit on a heated bench looking up at a circular scrim in the ceiling and as the sun rises the sunlight interacts with secretly placed lights. Hamish the cat even joined us for our sunrise experience.

Of course the colors are different depending on the type of weather; it was overcast this morning. Since the scrim is see-through, an occasional bird could be seen passing over.


After breakfast, we walked a paved art trail down to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Alice Walton, youngest daughter of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, donated acreage from their ancestral homelands to build the Crystal Bridges Museum. She hired famous Israeli architect Moshe Safdie to design the 200,000 square-foot building. This was his preliminary sketch. Their mission was to create a space that married the power of art with the beauty of nature. It’s spectacular!






Paintings by Charles Bird King of four Indian Chiefs. The one on the far left was John Ridge, a Cherokee leader who signed the treaty to give up their eastern ancestral lands to the government in exchange for land in Oklahoma. Later he was murdered by his people for that crime.

On to our final stop, the Museum of Native American History (MONAH). The founder, David Bogle, is the brother of Becky Alexander whose home we were at the night before.






You are greeted not only by this Mammoth skeleton, but by his loud call as well. This museum is primarily a collection of over 10,000 artifacts beginning in the Paleolithic period up through modern times, most of which David has collected himself.









This concluded our SAR adventure!



The President’s Circle is a group of philanthropic individuals who give generously to support SAR’s mission and programs, helping foster innovative social science and Native American creativity.

To join the President’s Circle, click here.

For more information about the President’s Circle, please contact Lindsay Archuleta at archuleta@sarsf.org or by calling (505) 954-7231.

President's Circle