Attracting Indian related tourism to Tulsa

Thursday, July 24th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A plan to attract Indian related tourism is a $2 million item in Tulsa's Vision package.

Supporters say a $2 million public investment would support a $40 million private investment. News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan has the story.

It’s as pristine a piece of land as there is left in the city of Tulsa - a place where red-tailed hawks ride the wind above. The city once used it for a wood-chipping site - now it's just a driveway to a sludge dump. But a 40-acre section along the Arkansas River near 7100 South Elwood might become the site of the National Indian Monument and Institute.

Wendy Ponca is a director of the non-profit group hoping to build here. “The first phase will be the cultural center which will have a really nice glass openings on it, five stories up looking over the river.” It's an ambitious plan for a cultural center, museum and performance hall that would showcase Indian art and history - and serve as an educational tourist attraction. Building all of it would cost an estimated $40 million - but the Vision plan contains just $2 million for the project.

The Riverparks authority leased the land to the National Indian Monument and Institute for $1 a year. The Vision project money - $2 million - would be used to build utility lines and a road onto the property. They'll seek the rest of their funding from private sources. “There's not a facility like this here because when the tribes get money they take it to their homes like Pawhuska, Muskogee or Tahlequah, so that leaves the urban Indians out.”

Ponca says there is support among the tribes and from corporate donors for the project - and plenty of demand for Indian related tourist attractions. She says her group is ready - if Tulsa county voters will support it with the Vision project.

The supporters of the Indian monument say they will build it regardless, but that the $2 million from the Vision package will demonstrate public support and encourage private investment.