DURANT – Plans for the much-anticipated Choctaw Nation Cultural Center were made official Wednesday, Aug. 8. A ground breaking ceremony was held in Durant with more than two hundred people in attendance, including the Choctaw Nation Tribal Council, tribal elders and officials from the Chickasaw Nation, City of Durant and Bryan County.
The ceremony was held indoors at the Choctaw Nation Event Center due to rain. The actual site of the new center will be on Choctaw Road, northwest of the intersection of Choctaw Road and Highway 69/75.
“Chahta Nowvt Aya has been in the works for many years,” said Chief Gary Batton, offering the name of the center in the Choctaw language. “The reason it has taken so long is that it was important to get it right. We want the Choctaw people to be proud of this. It will be a world-class facility.”
Remarks also were given by Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr. and Tribal Council Speaker Kenny Bryant.
“We can’t wait to get this built,” Choctaw District 9 Councilman James Dry said. “It’s going to be a window on our past that will help preserve our history.”
“I am a cultural keeper,” said Sue Folsom, of her position as Executive Director of Choctaw Nation Cultural Services. About the new center, she said, “It will give us a place to tell our stories.”
Gov. Bill Anoatubby of the Chickasaw Nation, said, “What better way to tell your story?”
Adding special cultural moments to the event were the singing of historic Choctaw hymns by the combined talents of 25 Choctaw Singers from Durant and Idabel. Choctaw Royalty – Miss Choctaw Nation BreAnna Jefferson, Jr. Miss Choctaw Nation Jade Cossey and Little Miss Choctaw Nation Mya Thomas – performed The Lord’s Prayer in sign language with a moving rendition by vocalist Brad Joe. Also The Walk Dance was demonstrated by two dozen Choctaw Dancers.
According to construction data and figures, Chahta Nowvt Aya translates to “Choctaw Journey.” The main building of the Choctaw Nation Cultural Center will be approximately 98,000 square feet and house two exhibit halls, an art gallery, auditorium, children’s area, classrooms, offices, gift shop and café. The surrounding site will include a stickball field, living village and a traditional mound.
Among features, the main facility will contain a Permanent Exhibit Hall: A four-part story focusing on the history of the Choctaw tribe from ancestral times (circa 1250) to current day in Oklahoma; also a Temporary Exhibit Hall: For traveling exhibits, community curated exhibits and special events throughout the year.
The Substantial Completion Date for construction is Jan. 23, 2020. This will be followed by furnishing the facility and organizing its contents, then the announcement of its Grand Opening.