Cultural preservation.

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Shakopee grant helps Kiowa Tribe purchase Indian City USA

Grand re-opening to take place May 17-18

By Brian Daffron -- Today correspondent

ANADARKO, Okla. - Indian City USA has been a tourist draw since 1955, when it was built south of Anadarko with the help of University of Oklahoma anthropologists.

Sitting atop a hill, Indian City and the surrounding land of approximately 200 acres houses a museum, gift shop, reconstructed tribal villages, a small buffalo herd and a ceremonial dance ground that two Kiowa societies, Kiowa Black Leggings and O-ho-mah Lodge, have used for decades. Serving as a tour guide or dancing every day during the summer has also been the first job of many Native people who live in the Anadarko area.

But for many years, different aspects of Indian City have fallen into disrepair, with many of the outdoor villages and Indian City building itself needing renovations.

Since 2004, Indian City has been on the market, with no suitable buyers. In 2006, the Kiowa Tribe expressed an interest in purchasing Indian City, according to Lawton Constitution reports. On Feb. 22, the Kiowa Tribe closed the deal to purchase Indian City from its shareholders for $600,000, which is $66,000 under its appraised value.

Modina Waters, a Kiowa tribal member and the director and general manager of the Kiowa Tribe's newly named Indian City USA Cultural Center, stressed the importance of the $1 million grant from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community that made it possible for the Kiowa Tribe to make the acquisition, with the remaining $400,000 to be used toward renovations and upgrades to the property. One of the most recent acquisitions made includes the installation of security cameras for the museum space and outdoor villages.

''It is cultural preservation,'' said Waters about the importance of the Kiowa Tribe obtaining Indian City. ''It is not for gaming. It is not for a casino. However, I do not have control over future Kiowa Business Committee leadership, say, five, six or 10 years down the road. It was purchased with this special funding from the Shakopee for cultural preservation.''

The Kiowa Tribe decided to keep the doors open to Indian City, expanding its hours and days of operation to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

As a part of the Kiowa Tribe's operations, functions such as procurement, personnel and finance will be handled through the tribe, with additional plans for road improvement and parking lot construction under the direction of the tribe's Transportation and Roads Department. The Kiowa Business Committee, the elected representative body of the tribe, has authorized the application process to make the Indian City property federal trust land through the BIA.

Planned improvements to Indian City are based on future grant proposals. These plans include building a state-of-the-art cultural center, restaurant, hotel and 500-seat amphitheater and stage. Proposed plans for the galleries within the cultural center include devoting space to the ceremonial organizations within the Kiowa Tribe such as Kiowa Gourd Clan, Kiowa War Mothers, Black Leggings, O-ho-mah and Kiowa Tia-Piah Society.

As part of these renovations and additions, Waters said that plans for future programs include a Kiowa language immersion program, rental of office space, a museum management project and a possible venue for the annual American Indian Exposition, which is currently held at the Caddo County Fairgrounds in Anadarko.

The ''Indian Villages'' of Indian City are part of the guided tour and include reconstructed villages of the Wichita, Caddo, Pawnee, Pueblo, Chiricahua Apache and Plains tribes. Although the Kiowa Tribe is the sole owner of this property, they want to continue having the villages of other tribes as part of the center.

''We're planning to meet with those tribes if we can get on their agenda and make a proposal to them about making available their particular village camp area where they can serve as consultants to us, and we can build up and improve what's there for their particular tribe,'' Waters said. ''We want them to buy into the idea that this little area is their tribe's village.''

Another plan for Indian City is the liquidation of non-authentic, imported souvenirs - part of the gift shop under the previous Indian City management - to expand authentic American Indian art and crafts and art supplies.

''We have a lot of the children's toys that are made in China,'' Waters said. ''As soon as we deplete those, we probably won't be restocking those things very much. Right now, all of that - we don't want to pitch it out. We want to take advantage of it, because it came with the package. Once those are gone, you'll see very little of that. We're going to increase our Pendleton blankets, wardrobe, bags, purses and hats sales.''

The grand re-opening of Indian City under Kiowa Tribe ownership will take place May 17 - 18 during Armed Forces Day weekend, which coincides with the Kiowa Black Leggings Ceremonial that also takes place on Indian City property. One of the special invited guests to the re-opening, Waters said, would be the Shakopee community. Waters also said that the decision to have the re-opening during the ceremonial came at the suggestion of the Black Leggings commander, Lyndreth Palmer, under the approval of the Kiowa

Business Committee.

''By making [Indian City] a cultural center, the Kiowa hope that other people will travel to Anadarko once we get our marketing plan functioning,'' Waters said. ''Through marketing and advertising, we hope to draw in more people. Even in the last three weeks, there has been an increase of people. We hope once we renovate and rebuild some of the villages out there, they'll be more attractive than they are now.''