A 200 year history has been encapsulated in a new exhibit at J.M. Davis Gun Museum in Claremore.
Local, state, and Cherokee Nation officials gathered to celebrate the opening of the exhibit Friday morning.
Museum Director Wayne McCombs kicked off the dedication ceremony saying, "We are opening a great new display here today in cooperation with Cherokee Nation. We had a great deal of fun working with Cherokee Nation on this one. We wanted to highlight Cherokee History and the Cooweescoowee District.
Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Keith Austin said he's grown up loving the J.M. Davis Museum.
"I've been familiar with J.M. Davis Gun Museum since the day it was opened. My father was a great lover of JM Davis' passion. I remember him bringing us to this museum within it's first few weeks of opening," Austin said. "I remember the excitement that it brought to Claremore at that time. The museum was opened by Clem McSpadden."
Austin said the Cherokee Nation had an exhibit in the space, thanks in part to the Indian Women's Pocahontas Club.
"But it was time for this exhibit to be refreshed," Austin said, adding that when he brought the matter up, McCombs was so excited he offered to double their existing space.
"This story is the story not of the Cherokee Nation but the Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation, that's a very different distinction. It is a 200 year story. It starts with the migration of our people through both the early settlers and the Trail of Tears and it progresses through the Civil War era, Reconstruction era, the era of our governance being lost in the state of Oklahoma, and then the era of our governance being regained," Austin said. "Cherokee Nation is a nation of diverse people, diverse demographics and diverse land. There's a map here in the middle that will show you the land of the Cherokee Nation and how diverse it is."
Austin said it only seemed fitting to share a quote from Claremore's favorite Will Rogers:
"'I think the time will come when everybody will be made to stop off in Claremore on their way to any place that they are going.'"
Austin continued, "We want to get more people to stop in Claremore, more people to visit Route 66, and more people who haven't come to the museum in years to have a reason to come again."
Chuck Hoskin Jr., Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, stressed the importance of telling the Cherokee Story.
He said the Cherokee people need to tell their own stories.
"And we also need to have the good sense to partners with the people and institutions that are already telling great stories, and you can find that here at the J.M. Davis Gun Museum. And to tell it on Route 66 where thousands of people stop by, is in the best interest of the Cherokee Nation. I'm proud of the partnership," Hoskin said. "I'm proud that it's Cherokees telling the Cherokee story with our good friends."
Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell, had of the state Tourism Department, addressed the group next. He celebrated the partnership between state and sovereign nations and said that it is only with partnership between the two that Oklahoma can become a Top 10 state.
"Claremore is one of the best, or arguably the best tourism town we have in Oklahoma. You combine route 66 with Will Rogers with the sovereign nation, I'm telling ya folks, you can see America in one town. The good the bad, where we were and where we're going to go as a state and as a country. You can see it all here in Claremore," Pinnell said. "That's why I'm so excited and why I come to Claremore as much as I can to the world's largest private collection of guns right here in this building on Route 66."