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Osage Nation breaks ground on Visitors Center expansion

The Visitors Center “Pop-Up Shop” will continue selling items at its temporary location in the Wahzhazhe Cultural Center. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The Osage Nation will soon offer an expanded and renovated Visitors Center to those who visit the Osage Reservation after celebrating the project’s start on May 8.

Tribal officials and community members gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking on the west side of the current Visitors Center at the intersection of Pawhuska’s Main Street and Lynn Avenue. When complete, the Visitors Center will have expanded room for guests to visit, enjoy a coffee and beverage refreshments and to visit with staff who have information on the Nation, Reservation and its people.

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said he is pleased to see the project take place in the long-standing building now owned by the Nation. The building, which contains formerly used garage space, has had many purposes over the years. It was previously a gas station, a pawn shop and storage space before the Nation opened it as an Interpretive Center in 2016, then as the Visitors Center two years later with a mission “to promote Osage culture, Osage Nation programs, and services, Osage artists and Osage owned businesses.”

On May 8, 2023, the Osage Nation held a groundbreaking ceremony for the renovation of the Osage Nation Visitors Center, located at 602 E Main Street in Pawhuska, Okla.
From left: Matt Stockman, VP of Experience and Events at Tulsa Regional Tourism; Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear; Renee McKenney, President of Tulsa Regional Tourism; Meg Gould, Executive Director of Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts & Culture; and Tim Chambers, VP of Marketing and Communications at Tulsa Regional Tourism. ECHO REED/Osage News

Standing Bear said the Visitors Center expansion is part of key plans the Nation is undertaking with an expanded ON Museum project being planned, as well as a new Heritage Center. The Nation is also expecting the new Osage Casino & Hotel properties to open at Pawhuska and Bartlesville by year’s end.

“We have a plan, this is a key part of it – all of our artists and a lot of our folks will be here with their products and arts and crafts,” Standing Bear said. “As (Visitors Center Director) Addie (Hudgins) already said, ‘we want to tell our story, we don’t want someone else telling it for us,’ so with that spirit, we’re going forward and I look forward to seeing how you all are going to do that.”

Standing Bear also acknowledged the ON Congress for their support and passing appropriation bills to fund the Visitors Center project, which totaled $1 million-plus. Congresswoman Jodie Revard sponsored a supplemental $100,000 appropriation, which came from the Nation’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, to complete the project.

“I’m really proud of this,” Revard said recalling earlier conversations with other Osages about uses for the building and to greet the increased Pawhuska tourist traffic in recent years. “We want to message our own story,” she said adding she and others took a local tour guided trip and listened to the discussion on Osages. “They were telling our story and it put a fire under us to say ‘we don’t want them telling our story, we want to tell that story.’”

“We also wanted to promote our Osage artists and we came up with the idea of a boutique-style that allowed our Osage artists to be represented and our Visitors Center to promote their artwork and all of these ideas, of course Kihekah (Standing Bear) approved,” Revard said. “Addie did a great job promoting the artists, she’s done a great job telling and messaging our story as visitors come in, I want to give her credit that during (the COVID-19 pandemic) she was still making money … I said ‘I have full faith in you, Addie! You can do it’ because of her cultural background and all of her team that has worked here with a cultural background and they have some stories.”

Congresswoman Jodie Revard speaks at the Osage Nation Visitors Center groundbreaking on May 8, 2023. ECHO REED/Osage News

Revard added the Visitors Center also promoted Osage-owned businesses by offering them as destination options for guests, whether it was gift shops or the ON Museum and other places that “message who we are as a people.”

During the massive renovation and expansion on its current structure, the Visitors Center has temporarily relocated to the Cultural Center, located at 220 W. Main in Pawhuska.

The Visitors Center “Pop-Up Shop” will continue selling items, although at limited quantities due to storage space, according to a news release. Hours of operation will be Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Follow the “Osage Nation Visitors Center” on Facebook for merchandise offers, availability and other updates.

Author

  • Benny Polacca

    Title: Senior Reporter

    Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

    Instagram: @bpolacca

    Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

    Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

    Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

    Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

    Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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Benny Polacca
Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org

Title: Senior Reporter

Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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