Building a Nation
Chickasaw Museums and the Construction of History and Heritage
Publication Year: 2011
The Chickasaw Nation, an American Indian nation headquartered in southeastern Oklahoma, entered into a period of substantial growth in the late 1980s. Following its successful reorganization and expansion, which was enabled by federal policies for tribal self-determination, the Nation pursued gaming and other industries to affect economic growth. From 1987 to 2009 the Nation’s budget increased exponentially as tribal investments produced increasingly large revenues for a growing Chickasaw population. Coincident to this growth, the Chickasaw Nation began acquiring and creating museums and heritage properties to interpret their own history, heritage, and culture through diverse exhibitionary representations. By 2009, the Chickasaw Nation directed representation of itself at five museum and heritage properties throughout its historic boundaries.
Josh Gorman examines the history of these sites and argues that the Chickasaw Nation is using museums and heritage sites as places to define itself as a coherent and legitimate contemporary Indian nation. In doing so, they are necessarily engaging with the shifting historiographical paradigms as well as changing articulations of how museums function and what they represent. The roles of the Chickasaw Nation’s museums and heritage sites in defining and creating discursive representations of sovereignty are examined within their historicized local contexts. The work describes the museum exhibitions’ dialogue with the historiography of the Chickasaw Nation, the literature of new museum studies, and the indigenous exhibitionary grammars emerging from indigenous museums throughout the United States and the world.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
Series: Contemporary American Indians
Title Page, Copyright Page
Edward Curtis, in his 1930 The North American Indian, had only a brief paragraph on the Chicka saws, and even then, they were jointly considered with the Choctaws. Such was their complete amalgamation with European and Ameri can settlers that he described them as “a striking forecast of the ultimate solution to what is now regarded as the Indian problem.”1 The presumed...
1. Museums and American Indians in Context
A discussion of the Chickasaw Nation’s museums and heritage sites must begin with an examination of the historic intersection between American Indians and the museums that defined and displayed them. This chapter explores that intersection through a discussion of the display of native peoples in Ameri can museums since the nineteenth century, a discussion of the new...
2. The Chickasaw Council House Museum
For many years the Chickasaw Council House served as the central site for remembering Chickasaw heritage. Located in the south eastern portion of the historic Chickasaw Nation, the Council House was the principal heritage site for recalling and exhibiting Chickasaw identity from the 1960s...
3. The Chickasaw National Capitol and White House
If the interpretation and display of the Chicka saw Council House described in the previous chapter represents an attempt to link contemporary Chickasaw sovereignty to traditional governance resurrected in the nineteenth-century Oklahoma incarnation of the Council House, the interpretation of the Chicka saw National Capitol and White House seeks to describe the...
4. The Chickasaw Cultural Center
The interpretations of the Chickasaw Council House Museum, the Chickasaw National Capitol Museum, and the Chickasaw White House are generally tied to specific periods of Chickasaw history. The consequent links to the historiography as well as the relationship between the current Chickasaw Nation and that history are therefore fairly direct. The Chickasaw Cultural...
5. Hayochi and the National Museum of the American Indian
Shortly after the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in 2004, the Chickasaw Nation began planning a fifth heritage site, the Hayochi (Discover) Center. Originally planned as a replacement for the aging Chickasaw Council House Museum, the space became a location for realizing the indigenous exhibitionary grammar emphasized at the NMAI...
Despite my best intentions and the warm reception of Devon Mihesuah’s warning, I fear this work has largely been an attempt to define Chickasaws using standards that are not their own. Indigenous scholars, activists, and curators have consistently denied the relevance of the historiography to describing Native American communities. This book demonstrates the use of...