Tribal Tribute

Native American center
planned for Butler Park

Cultural Center board shows plans,
moves closer to fundraising goal

By Don Ward

CARROLLTON, KY. (January 2007) – Creating a Native American Center for the state of Kentucky has been a dream of many people for some time, but the challenge of raising enough money to do it has been a daunting task.

Jan. 2007 Cover

Jan. 2007 Edition Cover.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the fact that there are no federally recognized tribes in Kentucky, thus no federal funds can be provided through grant applications. Kentucky was primarily a hunting ground for many Native American tribes around the region, and about 20 tribes existed in the state.
A few years ago, a major step toward creating a cultural center took place, setting in motion the current effort to establish a cultural and educational center to honor Native Americans. Former Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton in 2003 approved the donation of 85 acres of state park land at Carrollton’s Gen. Butler State Resort Park for a Native American cultural center.
Shortly after being elected in 1996, Patton had issued an executive order creating the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission. His wife, Judi, has Cherokee ancestry and still serves on the cultural center’s 19-member board, which meets quarterly.
Then in April 2004, Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed a bill establishing the commission through statute, thereby empowering it to promote the state’s Native American culture and history. The commission’s goals included protecting American Indian gravesites and establishing a Native American cultural center.
Since then, several Native American groups and its determined board members have worked to raise money to make the dream a reality. Circle of Wisdom, an organization of tribes in Kentucky and neighboring states, and the Kentucky Native American Indian Council, has sponsored festivals and gatherings to raise money for the center.
So far, they have raised enough money to hire a consultant to draft conceptual design plans, which were presented Nov. 13 at the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly membership meeting at Butler Park.

KCNAAC Rendition 1

Renditions provided

These renditions show the design plans
for the proposed Kentucky Center for
Native American Arts and Culture at
Gen. Butler State Resort Park.

KCNAAC Rendition 2

The design plans took five years to develop, said Stephen LeBoueff , a.k.a. Black Bear, a Blackfeet Indian from Morehead, Ky., who serves as the cultural center board president. He and Ken Tankersley, an anthropology professor from Northern Kentucky University from Highland Heights, Ky., gave a Powerpoint presentation to the chamber that showed the design of the Kentucky Center for Native American Arts and Culture. They say the design plans were necessary to begin corporate fundraising for the project. The state of Kentucky has provided $1.5 million to get the project started.
Once built, the center will serve as the state’s home base for holding major Native American Pow Wows and offer tourists a chance to experience Native American culture, they say. Some of the activities to take place there will include storytelling, traditional dance performances and interpretation. The nearest such center dedicated to Native American culture is located at Eiteljorg Museum in downtown Indianapolis. In fact, there is no such center in Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois or Tennessee.
The center’s design plans, created by Indian-owned Encompass Architects of Lincoln, Neb., features a $20 million, 50,000-square-foot structure with areas for permanent and traveling exhibits, classrooms and a lecture hall. There is also a library and research archive, gift shop and art gallery, outdoor amphitheater, picnic area and nature trails surrounding the building.
“This is not just a Carrollton attraction but a statewide Kentucky attraction,” said LeBoueff, who founded Healing of Nations, a crisis intervention agency that works with American Indian youths. “We believe it will draw tourists from many states. We feel we have not spent enough time in this community, and that is why we are here.”
In addition to showing off the new graphics of the future center, LeBoueff said his appearance in Carrollton was to seek community support by involving more local people in the initiative and possibly recruit additional board members from the business or education community. He wants people to learn more about the plans and become excited about it. The groups also seeks corporate sponsors “to help jumpstart the effort.
“It’s not just money that we need but also local people taking part in its development,” LeBoueff said.

KCNAAC Board Members

Photo provided

The 19-member cultural center board
includes (from left) Reginald Meeks,
David Cloud, Marty Soaring Eagle
and Bruce Brading.

The board includes some local citizens, such as Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold ‘Shorty” Tomlinson, Gen. Butler’s General Manager Stephen Jones, Carrollton chiropractor Richard Kates and Louisville’s Reginald Meeks, a state representative who is part Cherokee. But LeBoueff hopes more people from the region will join the effort. “This is something that will be good for the entire area, so we want more people involved to help us tell the story.”
Tankersley, who has Cherokee roots, takes part in many pow wows around the state and region. He teaches Native American studies at NKU and has written extensively about it.
Tankersley said a fourth Native American pow wow is being planned at Gen. Butler State Park during the last weekend of April 2007. Proceeds from these events have benefited the cultural center project fund. In addition to holding such events, the group plans to hire a professional fundraising firm in the near future.
The timetable for breaking ground depends on fundraising, he said. The center will likely be built in phases as money becomes available. They need about $9 million to begin the first phase of construction. Tankersley said he hopes the trails and gardens can be established within two years.
“This is something that will be unique to our area and also bring in tourists,” said Tomlinson. “I support the project, and that’s why I elected to serve on its board.”
Although there are no federally recognized tribes in Kentucky, there are many tribes that have been recognized by the state. In all, it is believed that more than 6,000 American Indians lived in Kentucky.

Stephen LeBoueff

Stephen LeBoueff

Cherokee, Chickasaw and Shawnee were the most influential tribes in the state, according to the Kentucky Historical Society. Tankersley said that at the time that Kentucky became a state in 1792, there were 20 tribes within its borders, including the aforementioned tribes plus Miami, Delaware, Piankeshaw, Wea and Ojibwe. Other tribes to be represented at the center are Iroquois, Cayuga, Tuscarawa, Seneca, Wyandot, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Eel River, Kickapoo, Kaskaskia, Mingo, Chippewa, Choctaw, Creek, Yuchi, Yamacraw, Quapaw, Seminole, sac, Fox and Osage.
The last Shawnee settlement, abandoned in 1754, was located in what is now Clark County, near Lexington. A number of Chickasaw lived in Western Kentucky, while a few Cherokee inhabited the southeastern part of the state.
According to the historical society, a number of Cherokee living in Eastern Kentucky married into local white families. For this reason, is is believed that most people who have Native American ancestry from Kentucky are descended from the Cherokee nation.

• For more information on the Kentucky Center for Native American Art & Culture, visit: www.kcnaac.org or www.encompassarch.com. To contact, Stephen LeBoueff, email: blkbear@alltel.net. To contact Ken Tankersley, email: cavetank@aol.com.

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