Lawmakers Praise Passage of Funding Bill for American Indian Cultural Center

OKLAHOMA CITY –Four state lawmakers praised the passage of a measure out of a House subcommittee today that would provide funding to complete the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City.

Senate Bill 1651, co-authored by state Representatives Dan Kirby, Mike Christian, Don Armes and David Dank, would provide one-time funding of $40 million out of the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund. That money would then be matched by $40 million in private funding to complete the project. The measure passed out of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Regulatory Services, chaired by Armes.

“This is a plan that will allow us to fulfill the promise we made to our citizens without taking on any more bond debt,” said Armes, R-Faxon. “The project is already half complete, and it would be a shame to let it just sit empty and rust for the next 50 years. The private sector has stepped up with matching funds, so I am proud that my colleagues have done their part to get this plan farther down the road. We have a proud Native American culture and history in Oklahoma, and we owe it to our citizens to finish the job we set out to do.”

Rep. Kirby, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and co-chair of the House Native American Caucus, said the center has been projected to have an economic impact of nearly $4 billion over the next two decades.

“This is not just another museum,” said Kirby, R-Tulsa. “This will be a beautiful, world-class center that will draw people from all over the world to Oklahoma. Our state is on the cusp of becoming a cultural destination because of the tremendous investments we have made during the last decade. I believe this money will be another investment in the economy of our state that will continue to pay dividends for our children and grandchildren.”

Rep. Christian, a member of the Choctaw Nation, said the plan will also save the state money by eliminating the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority as a state agency and removing its annual cost from the state budget.

“Any time we can shrink the size of government and grow our economy, we should act,” said Christian, R-Oklahoma City. “This plan allows us to finish this project in a fiscally responsible way without burdening future generations of Oklahomans.”

“No other state can claim the cultural heritage that we possess in Oklahoma,” added Dank, R-Oklahoma City. “This museum will symbolize that heritage and become a defining landmark for our state. I believe this museum will be a one-of-a-kind attraction throughout the nation that will pay for itself many times over during the next 20 years. I’m very thankful that my colleagues have moved this bill forward.”

Senate Bill 1651 now moves to the full House Appropriations and Budget Committee for consideration.