“Our focus is to educate tribal members about our history and culture,” said Dr. Kelli Mosteller, CHC director. “It’s important because without places like this tribal members wouldn’t have anywhere to go and learn about their culture and history.”
CPN first started construction of the Cultural Heritage Center in early 2005 and held the dedication in January 2006. The format for the exhibits has changed from chronological storyboard approach with standalone collection pieces to an approach that incorporates an immersive look at significant periods in Potawatomi history.
“We changed the exhibits to be immersive because we wanted to build a narrative to tell stories of these significant events. The immersion brings about an emotional attachment to these exhibits that makes it more real; it leaves a more lasting impression,” added Mosteller.
Something that the Cultural Heritage Center incorporates into each exhibit is the Potawatomi tradition of pitching in. No exhibit on the museum floor is the product of one person’s work, it is a collaborative effort between the curator, collections manager, auxiliary staff, and the community. Where possible the staff incorporates the art work and talents of tribal members. Items used in the exhibits are largely crafted by tribal members, found on tribal property, or brought in from our ancestral home in the Great Lakes Region.
“I think an important thing to remember is that this is a cultural center and not just a museum. This space needs to reflect on the past and be a changing, dynamic, and living thing as well. We’re a strong and thriving tribe and that should be reflected in this cultural center.”
The staff at the Cultural Heritage Center will be adding exhibits on the history of Potawatomi in Kansas, Indian Territory and present day Oklahoma. These exhibits are scheduled to be complete by Festival 2015.
To learn more about the display and CPN history, please visit the Cultural Heritage Center’s website at www.potawatomiheritage.org or visit www.potawatomi.org/culture. The CPN Cultural Heritage Center is located at 1899 S. Gordon Cooper Drive, Shawnee, OK 74801 and is open Tuesday-Friday (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m.-3 p.m.). For further information, call (405) 878-5830.