CARROLLTON, Ky. (January 2004) On Tuesday, Dec. 16, members
of the Kentucky Center for Native American Arts and Culture met at
Gen. Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton, Ky. Before sitting down
to a formal meeting to discuss plans for a proposed Native American
cultural center at the park, several members joined in a small ceremony
near the grounds of the former Ski Butler area to pray for the success
of the project.
by Ruth Wright
Native American Center board.
Among them was the groups president Stephen LaBoueff, also
known as Black Bear.
A descendent of the Blackfeet, LaBoueff is part of an 11-member board
appointed to oversee the project, unveiled last fall by former Kentucky
Gov. Paul Patton. Patton announced in November during Native American
Indiana Month that an 85-acre tract of land at General Butler had
been made available for a Native American Arts and Cultural Center.
Part of the approximately 800-acre General Butler state park, the
land was formerly used as a ski resort called Ski Butler and includes
a lodge building.
General Butler was among three prospective locations being considered
for the center, according to the states Native American Heritage
Commission vice chair Tom Jones, also present at the December meeting.
The other sites were Greenbo Lake State Resort Park in Eastern Kentucky
and Ben Hawes State Park in Western Kentucky. General Butler was selected
based on location and economics, not the least of which included a
high-traffic location and an existing infrastructure of roads and
utilities, said Jones.
Now that a site has been confirmed, the board plans to develop a feasibility
study, which will include a thorough evaluation of the existing ski
lodge. Used primarily for storage in the decade since it closed, the
lodge has deteriorated substantially over the years, according to
General Butler park manager Stephen Jones. Initial inspections have
indicated that the foundation of the building appears to be solid,
but a more comprehensive appraisal will have to be completed before
a decision is made about the buildings potential use, said LaBoueff.
Preliminary plans call for a 6,500-square-foot facility and an outdoor
performance area. The vision for the complex is to include a
small museum and library, art gallery and public performance grounds,
While much has been discussed, the project is still in its infancy
and much work lies ahead, LaBoueff said during an interview prior
to the board meeting. I think this is going to be a long-term
project, he said. He estimates that the project could take as
many 10 years to complete.
Now in its initial planning stage, the board will begin making specific
design plans for the center and will determine an approach to fund
raising. Private contributions as well as federal programs, which
include funding of museums and libraries, are a couple of options.
Collection of artifacts will also be a major focus of the board. It
is hoped that private collections, as well as collections held in
several state universities, will be donated to the center, said Tom
Jones. The center will also apply to the Smithsonian Institution Affiliate
Program, which will allow it to share exhibits with the museum, according
In addition to LaBoueff and Jones, board members present at the meeting
included vice-president and architect David Presnell; artist and scholar
Bruce Brading; and architect and community planner Duraid Daas.
The group, which also included other state and local officials, later
convened for a private meeting.
The Kentucky Native-American Heritage Commission was formed in 1996
with the goal of recognizing, appreciating and understanding the
significant contributions Native Americans have made to Kentuckys
rich cultural heritage.
Cherokee, Chickasaw and Shawnee were the most influential tribes in
Kentucky, according to the Kentucky Historical Society. The last Shawnee
settlement in Kentucky, abandoned by 1754, was located in what is
now Clark County. A number of Chickasaw lived in Western Kentucky,
while a few Cherokee inhabited the southeastern part of the state.
According to the society, a number of Cherokee living in Eastern Kentucky
married into local white families. For this reason, it is believed
that most people who have Native American ancestry from Kentucky are
descended from the Cherokee nation.
Many area residents have noted evidence of Native American presence
in the Carroll County area. Among them is Jim Klingler, a retired
Dow Corning employee and Carroll County resident who has been collecting
Native American artifacts since 1965.
Some are fairly simple; others (were) made with a lot of skill,
said Klingler, who has found in fields between Markland Dam and the
Ohio River Bridge in Milton artifacts such as rudimentary tools and
It is believed that today more than 6,000 Native Americans call Kentucky
home. Not only will the development of a Native American cultural
center honor the rich diversity and heritage of these people, it will
also serve as an educational and economic tool for Carroll County,
We believe that this can be of great economic benefit for the
Carrollton area, as well as for General Butler Park and the Commonwealth
of Kentucky, said LaBoueff.