Chisholm Trail Heritage Center: ‘Making History with the Arts’ slated

Posted in: Society
Mar 6, 2014 - 9:03:15 AM

Mikayla Riddles as Te AtaIn 2013, there were 6,875 students, along with their teachers and parents, who participated in the “Making History with the Arts” program at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center.
Leah Mulkey, the museum’s education coordinator, indicated recently that this was an increase of 1,250 students over 2012’s attendance, which numbered 5,625. In preparing for the 2014 sessions, which will be launched with a focus on Native-American history and arts, the CTHC staff has spent weeks researching, collecting authentic materials for classroom instruction, and even transforming themselves into historical figures.
One of the museum’s historical interpreters, Beverly Scott, has assembled a costume with all the “authentic” elements, including an “eagle talon,” a peace pipe fashioned from a mechanic’s tire iron, jewelry, clay pots and rugs.
During the Christmas on the Trail session that brought the 2013 program to a close, she portrayed Molly Bugbee, a cattle drover’s wife, learning how to cope with life on the Chisholm Trail in the 1880s. Molly’s character was energetic, excitable and engaging; and Scott had the children laughing. She believes that children should have fun while learning.
For this year’s Native-American education session, she completely transforms herself into the sixth wife of Quanah Parker, “Toe-Pay.” Her tale is not nearly as happy as that of Molly Bugbee; for many Native-Americans, life was hard and tragic. Toe-Pay had six children with Quanah, but two died as infants.
According to the book, The Last Comanche Chief: The Life and Times of Quanah Parker, by Bill Neeley,  both Toe-Pay and the Comanche chief’s seventh wife, Tonarchy, were at his side when he died in 1911. As “Toe-Pay,” Scott hopes to teach students what it was like to be the wife of a great Comanche chief.
In addition to the historical interpretive role played by Scott, instructor Mikayla Riddles performs as Te Ata, a Chickasaw actress and storyteller, who lived to be almost 100 years old. Riddles also has studied Te Ata through films and research to bring her character to life for the students. She uses sign language in her sessions.
Andy Couch, the center’s associate curator and programs coordinator, will teach students about Native-the American symbols and the history of parfleche, which is a Native-American rawhide bag typically decorated in bright colors and used for holding dried meats and pemmican.
This is the first year for the parfleche lesson.
“This was a collaborative effort between myself and Leah Mulkey,” Couch indicated. “Students will get to create their own parflech to take home with them.”
Tim Poteet, historical interpreter at the Great Plains Museum in Lawton, has loaned an authentic parfleche  to the heritage center for use in its instructional program.
Students will be allowed to touch the parfleche, because at the museum, the interactive experience is all part of the adventure, Mulkey said. Many museums have a hands-off approach to such items, but the staff at the heritage center aims to make the learning experience as approachable as possible.
Even in the Garis Gallery of the American West, which contains works by such famous artists as Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, students are engaged in learning about history and art.
A certain activity puts art into the visiting students’ hands through the use of photographic reprints that show a small portion of the full-size gallery artwork. Students have an opportunity to search for the original.
They also have a lesson that accompanies this activity. An education session usually lasts about four hours with a lunch break.  The facility is the only nonprofit in the state of Oklahoma to have received the Great Expectations Model  School status, an honor it has received every year since 2006. Title I schools attend at no charge.
Mulkey has already started booking field trip sessions for area educators and homeschool groups. To learn more, please call (580) 252-6692.