4-6-07 Ribbon Cutting for New Cultural Heritage Center
NPS Photo by Bob Spude
Ribbon Cutting for New Cultural Heritage Center Set for Friday, April 20, 2007
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, in cooperation with the Black Kettle National Grassland and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, will officially dedicate a new cultural heritage center with a special ribbon cutting ceremony at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, April 20, 2007. Unfortunately, construction delays related primarily to inclement weather have pushed back the permanent opening of the new visitor center until late May or early June. However, the visitor center will temporarily open for the ribbon cutting and Old Settlers Reunion activities on April 20–21.
Due to limited parking at the event site, people wishing to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony on April 20 need to park near the rodeo grounds at the northwest corner of Highway 47 and Fairbarn Road in Cheyenne, Oklahoma. Buses and vans will take park visitors from there to the event site. The shuttles will begin transporting people at 8:30 a.m. and it is recommended that visitors arrive by 9:00 a.m. for the 10:00 a.m. ceremony.
The ribbon cutting ceremony will feature several elements, such as a traditional blessing and the singing of flag songs of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. State Representative Purcy Walker will sing the national anthem and other music will be provided by Cheyenne Elementary School students. To honor the occasion, guest speakers will include Bob Blackburn, the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society; Michael Blake, the author of Dances With Wolves; Jerome A. Greene, retired National Park Service historian and author of Washita: The U.S. Army and the Southern Cheyennes, 1867 – 1869; and Lawrence Hart, the Director of the Cheyenne Cultural Center in Clinton, Oklahoma. Other speakers will include representatives of the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, Town of Cheyenne, and Western National Parks Association (WNPA).
A special part of the April 20 activities will be the participation of nine authors: Bob Blackburn, Michael Blake, Kim Doner, Tim Giago, Jerome A. Greene, Raylene Hinz-Penner, Mary Jane Warde, and Bill and Cindy Paul. The authors will be greeting visitors and signing books after the ribbon cutting ceremony until 3:00 pm. Collectively, the authors have written about the 1868 engagement along the Washita River, Southern Plains Indians, the Indian Wars, Oklahoma History, Indian Boarding Schools, and the American West. Books will be available for purchase in the WNPA bookstore in the new visitor center during the two-day limited opening and are available at the current park headquarters next to the Rook Theater in downtown Cheyenne.
Talks and tours of Washita Battlefield National Historic Site will also be available after the ceremony, beginning at 12:30 p.m. and ending at 4:00 p.m. Buses will shuttle visitors from the new building to the park overlook on Highway 47A, and also back to the parking area at the Cheyenne rodeo grounds.
Museum exhibits will be installed in the new building during late summer or early fall. Mark your calendars and plan to join the National Park Service for a Grand Opening of the Washita Exhibits on Saturday, November 17, 2007.
This ribbon-cutting event coincides with National Park Week and will mark a special day in the park’s history. The National Park Service is grateful for the efforts of Congressman Frank Lucas and the many people over the years who worked to make this day possible. With the forthcoming opening of this new center, the park will more effectively tell Washita’s compelling and tragic story to visitors. A spacious cathedral-like main gallery anchors the center of the building and will provide a setting commensurate with Washita’s significance in history. The new visitor center will also feature a 27-minute film, interpretive exhibits and a WNPA sales outlet with a wide selection of books. Progress of the construction can be viewed at www.nps.gov/waba.
The Cheyenne Arapaho Old Settlers Reunion events will continue on April 20 with free hamburgers and hotdogs at Dobson Telephone at 4:00 p.m. and the Rodeo at 7:00 p.m. For more information on the opening ceremonies call 580-497-2742, ext. 0. For more information on the Cheyenne Arapaho Old Settlers Celebration call 580-497-3318 or visit www.rogermills.org.