Originally one of the smaller indigenous tribes in the southeastern United States, the Chickasaw tribe were initially a tribal clan of hunters and warriors that first made contact with European explorers in 1540.
The two groups clashed from the very beginning, and over time, the Chickasaw tribe, along with other tribes in the region, were forcibly removed to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, where most still presently live today.
The Chickasaw Nation is now recognized as a Native American nation and makes up one of the Five Civilized Tribes, tracing their original roots from the areas today known as Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Alabama.
This area spans over 7,000 miles and 13 counties of Oklahoma, and, for the traveler seeking a rich cultural experience in the United States, Chickasaw Country is a welcoming, warm, and spirited destination.
The following is an introduction to what you can expect traveling in the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma.
Traveling in the Chickasaw Nation
Nature & The Outdoors
Chickasaw Country offers incredible landscapes, and between the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Lake Murray, and the Arbuckle Mountains, this region has some of the best opportunities for immersing yourself in nature.
Nature here is preserved in the way it was before the Europeans arrived; pristine, wild, and untouched. You’ll explore ancient hills and gorgeous bodies of water, and camping grounds and hiking trails allow you to fully appreciate the magic of the region.
Popular outdoor areas include Turner Falls and Lake Texoma. Likened to the Grand Canyon, Turner Falls Park is the oldest in Oklahoma, and you’ll find natural caves, hiking trails, a natural rock castle, and a 77 foot waterfall that plunges into a natural swimming pool.
The area has amazing weather year-round, so anyone traveling here can enjoy it during any season. And you won’t be bored; the outdoors perfectly lends itself to adventure, and you can enjoy everything from jet skiing, wake boarding, or rafting at Lake Texoma.
In Davis, Oklahoma, Air Donkey Zipline Adventures offers the chance to zip across 777 feet of open air with an incredible view of the Arbuckle Mountain Range, Collings Castle and Turner Falls. Flying over a mile above land, be sure hold on tight as you soar through the sky at speeds of up to 28 mph!
Image: Last Year’s Man (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
History & Culture
Anyone visiting this region will have plenty of opportunities to connect with Native American history. And if this is one of your reasons for traveling, your first stop should be the Chickasaw Cultural Center.
This is the place to go for immersing yourself in the heritage and traditions of the native people. You’ll hear centuries-old stories, and take in powerful reenactments of historical events that offer insight into the story of the Chickasaw people.
This is one of the largest tribal cultural centers in America, and if you take a guided tour around the grounds you’re able to visit the Chikasha Inchokka’ Traditional Village, and take part in a Chickasaw Stomp Dance, while joining Native Americans for a traditional Chickasaw meal.
This region has a rich heritage, and the cultural center itself could take up a full day of your itinerary. Other sites of historic relevance include the Chickasaw Capitol Building, which is a symbol of the tribe’s independence, and for western history, the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center.
There are in fact, more than 25 museums, art galleries (where you can buy contemporary Native American art), and sites of historic importance, so best to leave at least 3 days for exploring the region’s history and culture.
Tishomingo specifically is home to the Chickasaw Council House Museum where beautiful displays of pottery, bead work, and jewelry celebrating the local heritage can be viewed and purchased.
Food & Entertainment
Once you’ve got your nature fix, and you’ve explored the region’s rich cultural heritage, nearby Ada, Oklahoma, has some more general entertainment.
Chickasaw is known for their state of the art golf resorts, and the region draws many golfers traveling to perfect their swing. While there are close to 20 golf resorts across the region, the WinStar Golf Course designed by Champions Tour Player D.A. Weibring is one of the biggest draws.
For every golf resort in Chickasaw Country, it seems like there’s a luxury spa, and this has become one of the best retreats in the United States for rejuvinating your body, mind, and soul.
In terms of entertainment, McSwain Theater has operated for nearly a century as one of the most well-known and respected places for live shows in the region. Their stage has seen many famous musicians and stars over the years and each year they welcome both new and established acts.
Foodies can visit Bedré Fine Chocolate and indulge in exquisite premium chocolates. Chocolate has a long legacy as a Native American delicacy, and they use the same recipes as the first Native American peoples who first cultivated chocolate thousands of years ago.
By this stage you’ve already won the jackpot, having discovered a region so rich in pristine nature, cultural heritage, and food and entertainment. But the Chickasaw Nation is also well-known for it’s large casinos, including the famous Winstar World Casino.
It’s very common for American Indian tribes to run casinos; in the 1980’s, the US Supreme Court ruled that tribal countries were sovereign nations, and not subject to state limitations on gambling. Casinos have since become a large way to raise funds for tribal activities.
The Winstar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma is one of the most famous sites of its kind. As a cultural phenomenon, it is a destination like no other, with more than 500,000 square feet of casino space, over 7,000 electronic games, and much more.
For those who are not serious gamblers, there are still ways to enjoy the venue, including excellent boutique shopping, golf and tennis courts, fine dining, and guided tours.
And if you can’t make it to the area, Winstar offers an online alternative – the new Winstar Online Casino that can be enjoyed in the United Kingdom and central Europe too (not in the US unfortunately).
All this and more makes Chickasaw country a location worthy of your bucket list.
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