American Indian Cultural Center and Museum's first building is complete

On a weekday last spring, the Oklahoma Legislature decided what would become of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. It authorized a $25 million bond package, ensuring the funding will not be relegated to the shards of Wall Street.

Instead, the bonds will go "native," to be marketed within the state and sold to established Oklahoma lenders.

"Our goal is to close this bond issue in November," said state Treasurer Scott Meacham. "We've tried to structure this bond issue so it could be sold locally because there are larger issues we can't move to the market. We are within 60 days of closing on bonds for the Native American Center."

Oklahoma's 39 recognized Native American tribes have spoken of this possibility " a completed museum and center " for several years. As their cultural center builds slowly with a price tag of $150 million for the project, dozers and scrapers sat silently on the 300-acre complex south of the Oklahoma River, interrupted by intermittent cash flow.

The state has given first rights to Native Americans while other opportunities have closed, Meacham said. "We're still sitting on a $100 million GARVEE (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles) bond issue we can't sell."

Much of the preliminary work for the cultural center and museum was achieved through an earlier $33 million bond issue, $7 million in federal grants and about $3 million from Oklahoma tribes for the design phase and debt service. The City of Oklahoma City contributed the land southeast of Interstate 35 and Interstate 40.

The center was originally planned to open next year, but lack of funding stalled the project and delayed the completion date.

"We can't predict the opening date until base funding is received," said Gena Timberman Howard, executive director of the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority.

The latest financial package for the center is being marketed to state financial institutions.

Last week, as Oklahoma winds assailed the convergence of Interstates 40 and 35, Indian shamans dedicated and blessed the 4,000-square-foot visitor center, the first completed building of the complex.

The native rites blessed the basic materials of the building, a structure of corrugated roofing, timbers, glass and steel, that formed a low-slung building with tall windows shaped like a half circle. The visitor center will serve as offices and an information center until other buildings are completed.

Much more will be needed to complete the cultural center and museum, officials said. Time and funding will be the key factors in making it happen. "Randall Turk

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