Atoka GEAR UP Juniors tour Choctaw Cultural Center

Forty-four GEAR UP Juniors from Atoka High School recently traveled to Durant, OK, to tour the newly constructed Choctaw Cultural Center.  The day began with Sam Harley, Choctaw Cultural Educator, greeting the students and leading them to the Kowi Chito Theater. They viewed films depicting Choctaw artistry such as basket weaving and weapon making. After the introduction, Cultural Educator Sarah De Herrera and Public Programmer Eli Williams led students on a guided tour of the center. Students explored the Choctaw Gardens exhibit, which provides sights and sounds of the Mississippi homelands as they existed hundreds of years ago. The tour continued with the Hall of Treaties which illustrated how the Choctaw people-maintained relations with the government, which ultimately led to the Trail of Tears. The largest exhibit visited by the GEAR UP students was “Oklahoma,” where they heard the Choctaw story from the 1830s to the modern Choctaw Nation. The tour concluded with a question-and-answer session and a visit to the gift shop. “This is really cool. I wanted to see more of the video exhibits,” stated Atoka student Shay Birchfield. The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College’s GEAR UP program. Eastern received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant in 2017 and will serve more than 3,000 students in 39 area schools for seven years.

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