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Oklahoma native

Authentic experiences
A great first stop along this native exploration is a visit with the Cherokee Nation, a warm and lively tribe that has a lot of ways for visitors to immerse themselves in their customs and culture, from the Cherokee Art Market and the Heritage Center Exhibit to casinos and outdoor adventures.

“The Cherokee Nation is one of the most famous nations in Oklahoma,” Stallbaumer said. “Their cultural center is literally a step back in time exploring pre- and post-European contact. They have a great Trail of Tears exhibit, and they continue to develop attractions within their tribal lands, including the Cherokee Courthouse and Prison in Tahlequah.

“The Chickasaw Cultural Center, on the other hand, is the newest of the nation’s tribal centers,” he said. “This campus offers the latest in presentation, including an exhibit created by designers that have worked for Universal Studios, an Imax-style theater, [a] restaurant serving traditional foods and a re-created village.”

Other great cultural centers worthy of exploring as a group are the Cheyenne Cultural Center in Clinton, the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center in Lawton and the Seminole National Museum in Wewoka.

“The cultural centers have restaurants available within their areas where they cook traditional foods groups can try as well,” said Stallbaumer, who mentioned that another great way to experience modern Native American culture is by attending one of the authentic powwows that take place throughout the year.

“Most of the powwows are open to the public and serve authentic cuisine with tons of great music and dancing. I think that’s because [Native American heritage is] so assimilated here that there’s things you can go and try everywhere, and it’s just so mixed in with so many of the communities, depending on what tribal nation is headquartered in that area. It’s one of those things we take for granted here because it’s just part of what we are.”