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Tracing America’s roots

Photo courtesy Wichita CVB

Mid-America All-Indian Center
Wichita, Kansas
Located on the confluence of two rivers, the Arkansas and the Little Arkansas, the Mid-American All-Indian Center is where the Plains Indians once traveled and traded, according to April Scott, executive director.

“While we are dedicated to preserving the culture of all American Indian cultures, we have an abundance of artifacts and art from the Plains people and also the Inuit,” Scott said.

Visitors first notice the 44-foot-tall steel sculpture “Keeper of the Plains” by Blackbear Bosin, an internationally known Native American artist. “This Wichita landmark, a Blackbear design, is lit up by pots of fire at night. People come from around the world to see him,” said Scott.

In the Gallery of Nations, flags representing sovereign Native American nations recognized by the federal government are displayed. All the flags have been donated in this first exhibit of its kind in America. Upon completion, the museum hopes to have more than 500 flags.

From pottery to paintings, the museum highlights past and present Native American art in a variety of galleries. Regalia artifacts, clothing with cultural and religious significance worn during powwows, are also showcased.

Outside, artist gardens are places to stroll, and throughout good weather, an encampment of an 1800s family depicts life as it once was for the Plains people.


Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Collinsville, Illinois
A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site, Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is the largest prehistoric Indian settlement north of Mexico, and its 120 mounds include the largest earthwork in the Americas: Monks Mound.

“The site known as ‘America’s first city’ was occupied from A.D. 700 to 1400 primarily by the Mississippian culture, covered nearly six square miles and, at its peak, may have had between 10,000 and 20,000 inhabitants,” said Bill Iseminger, assistant site manager.

“Mounds, arranged around plazas where public gatherings occurred, were the elevated homes of leaders and also had religious significance.

“Archaeologists have discovered the former location of a Woodhenge sun calendar; a two-mile-long palisade wall and reconstructions mark the locations of these. There are three tour trails for visitors,” he said.

Groups are introduced to the museum with an orientation show before visiting themed exhibit galleries at the interpretive center. The interpretive center also tells the story of the site with artifacts, graphics and dioramas, including a life-size village re-creation depicting people in their daily activities.

“With Indian-made jewelry and pottery, as well as artifact reproductions, our gift shop is outstanding,” said Iseminger.


New Echota Historic Site
Calhoun, Georgia
The site where the tragic Trail of Tears officially began, New Echota, the official Cherokee capital in the early 1800s, is one of the most significant Cherokee Indian sites in the nation.

“In addition, New Echota was the site of the first Indian-language newspaper office, a court case that carried to the U.S. Supreme Court, one of the earliest experiments in national self-government by an Indian tribe and the signing of a treaty that relinquished Cherokee claims to lands east of the Mississippi River,” said Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for the Georgia State Parks.

After an introductory film, groups tour 12 original and reconstructed buildings, including a furnished home, a missionary house and the print shop where Cherokee’s bilingual newspaper made history. Outbuildings such as smokehouses, corn cribs and barns are also part of the tour.

Officially dedicated as a historic site in 1962, New Echota will celebrate its 50th anniversary in May with a variety of events. Although this site is open to the public Thursday through Saturday, bank tours can schedule private tours on other days of the week.