McAlester GEAR UP students tour the Choctaw Cultural Center in Durant

Twenty-two GEAR UP seniors from McAlester High School recently traveled to Durant, OK, to tour the Choctaw Cultural Center. Upon arrival, students were greated by the Choctaw Cultural Center staff. Students went on a guided tour of the center, including many interesting depictions of Choctaw Life.     

The tour began in the exhibit showing how the Native Americans produced crops (corn, squash, beans) to create the “three sisters’ system” of support for the plants. This exhibit depicted how the Choctaws gathered, plowed, and hunted scavengers. The room smelled like corn and freshly plowed earth. The next room had a Mother Mound and video which told of early life and the ecosystems created and sustained for their existence. Further in the center, students walked through a very dense forest with all kinds of animals (black bear, coyote, mountain lion, deer, turkey, etc.) and a scene of the Choctaw people in daily life and the clothing they would have worn. The Trail of Tears hallway was a grey pathway highlighting the different Choctaw treaties and negotiations to maintain government-to-government relations with the United States. The tour ended with the history of Choctaw schools and churches and how Choctaw became a sovereign nation.

After the tour, students enjoyed an Indian Taco bar for lunch. After lunch, Choctaw Cultural Center staff demonstrated how Stickball was played throughout the years. The staff then challenged the Buffaloes to a game. Five of McAlester GEAR UP students, Colin Detels, Evan Jackson, Sebastian Buford, Seth Byrnes, and Castan Macey, conceded 4 to 5 points. 

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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