Immerse yourself in culture and learn about the rich history of Wichita’s native populations long before the city developed into what it is today. The Mid-America All-Indian Center offers a unique perspective through the eyes and stories of Native Americans of the Plains, offering their artwork and traditions for all to see. This museum is the only one of its kind, solely dedicated to preserving the history of the American Indian in the state of Kansas.
History & Culture
The museum opened in 1969 as an outreach center for the local native community. It was then turned into the museum to teach visitors about the history of American Indians. With more than 3,000 artifacts and ever-changing exhibits, guests can learn about Native Americans through stories of the tribes who once lived here.
Visitors have the special opportunity to not only view, but also purchase authentic native art on display in the museum’s gift shop. A portion of the sales goes back to the community to support the artists who create the masterpieces. Also in the gift shop is beautifully-crafted jewelry, movies, CDs, food and other types of artwork.
Outdoor Learning Center
When you’re finished admiring the artwork and artifacts inside the museum, head outside to experience the Outdoor Learning Center. Look at a full-size teepee, travois (hammock-like structure used to carry supplies) and a native garden with edible plants and flowers showcasing how the American Indian families lived. With gourds, corn, beans and squash, visitors can learn about the food and medicinal plants used in history. This garden also has some of the same plants and grasses that grew on the prairies in the 1850s.
Also outside sits one of 206 State of Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Outdoor Wildlife Learning Sites (OWLS). Students can learn about wildlife and plant life around the state. The Outdoor Learning Center is open from May-November.
Before heading to the Keeper of the Plains, learn about the artist behind the great work of art in the artist gardens. The exhibits honor two famous Native American artists: Blackbear Bosin and Woody Crumbo.
Francis Blackbear Bosin is one of the most well-known sculptors and artists in Kansas because of his Keeper of the Plains sculpture. Bosin, of Comanche-Kiowa descent, was born in Oklahoma and came to live in Wichita in 1940. Many people don’t know he was an illustrator for Boeing Aircraft while the company had a home base in Wichita. He also was a plate maker for Western Lithograph. Even though he’s most well-known for his magnificent sculpture, Bosin was an avid painter as well. The Mid-America All-Indian Center has nearly 40 of his paintings, more than any museum in America. He is recognized internationally for his work with watercolors and acrylic paints.
Woody Crumbo was a Wichita State graduate (1933-1936, studying mural technique) and Wichita Symphony Orchestra flute player. He was also a well-known Native American artist, of Potawatomi descent. His work is displayed at the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was commissioned by the U.S. Department of the Interior to create masterpieces inside some of the department’s buildings, and Queen Elizabeth II owns some of his work.
The Keeper of the Plains Plaza
After visiting the museum, head outside to the most iconic piece of Wichita’s history, the Keeper of the Plains. It stands at the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers. Native American artist Blackbear Bosin designed the 44-foot, 5-ton stylized sculpture of an Indian chief in 1974. In 2007, the monument was raised on a 30-foot promontory.
Among the Keeper Plaza lives an environment of plants, yucca, medicinal herbs and cacti. Visit the Keeper by crossing the pedestrian suspension bridge. If you visit at night, get ready for one of the most beautiful experiences in Wichita. At 9 p.m. March-October and 7 p.m. November-March, enjoy the Ring of Fire, the lighting of large fire pots in the river to complete the Keeper Plaza tribute to the Circle of Life: water, air, earth and fire.
To learn more about the other cultural and historical museums, click here.