When visitors stop into the 109-acre campus of The Chickasaw Cultural Center, they should prepare to be immersed into the culture of the 12th-largest federally recognized Indian tribe in the United States.
The campus of the educational center features an art gallery, exhibition hall, a theater, research building and a replica of a traditional Chickasaw village. With the help of exhibits, art works, artifacts and historical pieces, center staff stand ready to introduce each visitor to Chickasaw life, says Brad Deramus, director of operations
“Here we do our best to share,” Deramus says. “Share our culture and share our traditions.”
A visit to The Chickasaw Cultural Center in March not only shares the heritage of the Chickasaw people, but also invites visitors to get a first-hand glimpse into the life of Chickasaw people during the 1700s. The annual Three Sisters Celebration, which recognizes an ancient method of gardening during the spring season, continues through Sunday at the center, with dozens of special activities and games for visitors.
Deramus says the celebration is an annual event for the center, which opened to the public in July 2010. In the early years of the center’s history, it was a week-long celebration, but has since expanded into a two-week festival. Each year, during a majority of Oklahoma and Texas public schools spring breaks, the cultural center sets the celebration, welcoming visitors from across the state, parts of Kansas and Texas.
Tuesday, more than 800 people visited the center located in Sulphur, near the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Deramus says some visitors make an effort to come every year to the Three Sisters Celebrations. For many, it is a first-time trip to the cultural center, which adds new events to the celebration each year.
New this year is a native plant tour, which falls under the offerings of horticulture-related activities the center provides. While there, visitors will learn that corn, beans and squash are known as the three sisters, used as an intercropping system to grow the crops simultaneously. Other horticulture-related activities including preparing a garden, planting tips, cultivating crops and food tasting.
In addition to the horticulture, the Three Sisters festival features many outdoor activities and games that celebrate and embrace the rebirth and rejuvenation of spring. A variety of games are offered for visitors to take part in, such as stickball, squirrel stick throwing, chunky, marbles and language games.
Other activities include archery, art workshops, basket weaving, stomp dance demonstrations, storytelling, flute making and more. The activities are placed around the center’s buildings in an outdoor market set-up.
Visitors are also encouraged to sample Chickasaw fare, such as the Three Sisters Stew.
Deramus encourages visitors to arrive early in the day and plan to spend a few hours at the celebration. Stomp dance demonstrations are conducted at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., which tend to garner the most participants throughout the festival. During two of the dances, members of the audience are encouraged to join the Chickasaw dancers.
Additionally, the Chickasaw Nation’s first film of the Chickasaw Heritage Series “First Encounter,” a documentary, has several showings in the Anoli Theater, which features a 2,400 square-foot screen and seats 350 people.
The Three Sisters Celebration has a variety of activities that appeal to all ages, says Valorie Walters, executive officer of the Chickasaw Cultural Center.
“This is an opportunity for us to share with so many hands-on activities,” she said.
The Three Sisters Celebration serves as just another avenue for the center to share the history and culture of the Chickasaw Nation.
To ask questions about the Three Sisters Celebration, contact the Chickasaw Cultural Center at (580) 622-7130 or visit www.chickasawculturalcenter.com. The event is free and open to the public. The festival continues Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.