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Spotlight: Chickasaw Nation

Shaped by a dramatic past, a nation within a nation thrives in the Southwest

Despite being born out of turmoil, the people of Chickasaw Nation have survived to create a vital, vibrant community of great cultural import. Now a federally recognized Native American nation, Chickasaw Nation was established when the Chickasaw tribes were relocated to Indian Territory as part of the federal initiative that became known as the Trail of Tears. However, rather than let this incident define them, the citizens of Chickasaw Nation have instead gone on to create one of the most truly unique locales in the United States, a nation among states.

As you would expect, one of the great calling cards of the Chickasaw Nation is its storied culture. The first visit for the history buff inside you should be the Chickasaw Cultural Center. The vast complex includes a sprawling campus grounds consisting of a beautiful stone garden that honors many of the great citizens of Chickasaw Nation.

Also on display is a series of bronze statues commemorating the Chickasaw arrival to Indian Territory upon completing the Trail of Tears and a breathtaking amphitheater that plays host to cultural presentations and living history performances. The Chickasaw Cultural Center also boasts a bustling exhibit center, two beautifully ornate fine art galleries, a traditional village to showcase the historic lives of the original Chickasaw people and many more compelling exhibits.


Culture on Display

The Chickasaw Council House Museum in nearby Tishomingo features one of the nation’s largest collections of Chickasaw art, artifacts and archive materials. Stop by the gift shop on your way out and browse pottery, jewelry, beadwork and paintings by Chickasaw artists. For a glimpse into the authentic past of the native citizens, make sure to visit the Kullihoma Grounds, a tribal reserve that was once used as a school and stomping grounds. Today, it continues to thrive as not only a gathering ground for the Chickasaw people, but as a looking glass into recent history. If your feet are up to it, check out all the 1,500-acres grounds, including eye-opening replicas of traditional dwellings.

Supporters of more modern art can feast their eyes on creations by Chickasaw artists and get in on the act. ARTesian Gallery & Studios, in downtown Sulphur, features an art gallery where artists can display their work for sale. Also offered are art classes for visitors in the mood to test their creative vision.

Cards and Clubs

As is the case for many Native American communities, the casino industry is one of the bedrocks of the Chickasaw Nation economy. This means that for visitors seeking to press their luck on games of chance, there are several viable options. Two deserve special mention here, one for being the first gaming facility established by the Chickasaw Nation and the second for simply being the largest. Established in 1983 as a bingo hall, Ada Gaming Center has moved into the modern age with over 22,000 feet of electronic games and four table games to test your gambling skill.

The immense WinStar Casino & Resort, on the other hand, prides itself in being the “largest casino in the entire world.” Indeed, if you are going here, bring the walking shoes, because the casino is home to 500,000 square feet of gaming, including 7,400 electronic games, 96 game tables, a bingo hall, fully functioning poker hall and off-track betting areas.

WinStar Golf Course Clubhouse.

Chickasaw Nation

By the way, if you do happen to be in the area of the WinStar and you are the type of person who packs the clubs in the RV when going on trips, you owe it to yourself to check out the WinStar Golf Course. The beautiful course is challenging enough to be worth your time, but so not difficult that you’ll want to throw your clubs in one of the many visually inviting bodies of water.

If you have kids in tow, Lazer Zone Family Fun Center needs to be on your list. The facility offers an arcade with more than 100 games, bowling lanes that glow during evening hours, miniature golf and a laser tag arena.

Dining options are copious in Chickasaw Nation, and you certainly can’t go wrong with Springs at the Artesian. Located inside the Artesian Hotel in Sulphur, the restaurant features menu items starting as low as $7 and features burgers, pastas, steaks and salads. Want to go straight to dessert? Then check out Bedré Fine Chocolate. Located in Davis, this shop includes a wide selection of gourmet chocolates.

For More Information

Chickasaw Nation
Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department