Budget for American Indian museum grows

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (AP) 6-09

Even as most other state agencies likely will have to deal with budget cuts, an American Indian museum is preparing to receive more money under the proposed agreement between Gov. Brad Henry and legislators.

Under the agreement, which is awaiting Henry's signature, the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum will receive $1 million for debt service on a $25 million bond issue and $1 million more to pay for operations.

The museum, situated on the south shore of the Oklahoma River at Interstate 40 and Interstate 35, remains under construction, with no timeline set on when it will be finished.


Gena Timberman, the executive director of the Native American Cultural and Education Authority - the state agency that is overseeing the center's construction - said funding still is being sought to finish it.

Lawmakers who worked with Henry on the budget called the center one of his priorities and some questioned whether extra money should be appropriated for it.

"If the question about (funding) priorities comes up, I would be correct in referring them to this million dollars?" asked Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, during a committee meeting.

Henry said the money was necessary to make sure the state's investment in the center is rewarded.

"Tens of millions of dollars from private and public sectors have been invested in the construction of the cultural center," he said.

The $150 million complex will include a 4,000-square-foot visitor center, a 125,000-square-foot museum, courtyards, an outdoor amphitheater and earthen mounds. Timberman said project officials have secured a little more than half the funding needed for the complex. One-third of that money is coming from private, tribal or other sources.

She said the money from the $25 million bond issue will be used for erecting steel on the gallery building.

"We're really grateful to the Legislature, the governor's office, and the Speaker of the House and the Pro Tem of the Senate for working in a way to support a project that benefits all of Oklahoma," Timberman said.