The American Indian Arts and Humanities Project

The American Indian Arts and Humanities Project involves renovation and restoration of historic Addams Hall and the original Steam Plant. Both facilities will generally address the educational and cultural needs of North American Indian peoples by housing the proposed Howard Meredith Indian Humanities Center (HMIHC). They will also specifically serve Oklahomans by including the related functions of an Oklahoma School for Native American Art (OSNAA).

The College’s Long Relationship with Native Peoples

From its beginning in 1908, the college enrolled a number of indigenous students from the Chickasaw Nation, along with a scattering of students from the more distant Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole and Creek Nations. Citizens from the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, Nadarko, and Arapaho tribes were located nearby, but fewer students from the Plains culture took advantage of the opportunity to enroll in the early years of the college.

By 1920, however, the Indian Club was formed on the campus, whose first president was Mary Thompson, a Chickasaw from Tishomingo who went on to achieve national recognition as the renowned Te Ata, singer of Indian songs, Indian dancer, and teller of Indian tales. Te Ata was the first individual to be named an "Oklahoma Treasure" for her life’s achievements and distinctive contribution to state history. She also was the first inductee into the University of Science and Arts Alumni Hall of Fame, and is now enshrined on the wall of the Student center along with other alumni members of significant Native American heritage. Among them are educator and actress Ruth Arrington, OCW class of 1946, who was named Outstanding Indian Woman in 1972 by the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women.

Linda Poolaw, former Grand Chief of the Delaware Indian Grand Council, is a 1974 graduate whose vision and leadership in art and medicine have earned her a national reputation.

Kiowa storyteller Evalu Russell earned two degrees (1975 and ‘77) after her children were grown. In 1979, she received the National Indian Educator of the Year Award.

One of the earliest faculty members of the woman's college was Dr. Anna Lewis, a Choctaw historian who published a number of Native American histories, along with the first published history of the Oklahoma College for Women. She was inducted into the prestigious Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1940.

One of the leading trustees of the college from 1919 to 1940 was Roberta Lawson, whose father was the Reverend Charles Journeycake, a chief of the Delaware tribe. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1935. Lawson Hall, a dormitory for upper-division women on the east side of the campus, was named in her honor.

In 2002, slightly more than 13 percent of the student body at the college is identified by the admissions office as Native Americans, and a like percentage of students who are uncertified in the records claim to be of Indian heritage. Among the current faculty, including both full-time and part-time, 14 are identified as Native Americans.

Oklahoma College for Women National Historic District

Addams Hall is one of 19 buildings or structures on the USAO campus defined as contributing historic resources to the Oklahoma College for Women National Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places. USAO is the only college campus in the 112-year history of public higher education to achieve this status.

Addams Hall was the last of four dormitories built on campus during the Great Depression. It was intended for sophomore women with a capacity for 100 students when fully occupied. Like the others, it was funded in part with the assistance of the Public Works Administration, a New Deal federal program created to help finance public works and create jobs. It was constructed in 1938-39, as World War II was getting underway in Asia and Europe.

Addams Hall is the only building ever constructed on campus to face north and away from the oval. Designed in an "U" shape, it sits next to historic Grimsley Gardens on the far northwest side. Designed by architect John Duncan Forsythe in Spanish Eclectic style, it followed the exterior model of the east side dormitories. Like its counterparts on the campus’ west side, however, it is three stories high. It retains its original design and most of its architectural integrity and original materials.

Dedicated in 1940, the building was named in honor of Jane Addams. Founder of the famous Hull House in Chicago, Addams was a social worker and educator. Among her primary reform efforts was the first eight-hour law for working women, the first juvenile court, and the first state child-labor law. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Addams Hall continued as a dormitory until the 1980’s. It is not currently being used.

The earliest part of the original Steam Plant was built in 1916-17. It is the third oldest structure on campus. The building was modified over the years, with additions made in 1919, 1921, 1923, and 1930. Its architecture is classified as commercial style. Built on the back, west side of the campus, it is the only building constructed wholly of red brick.

Notably, the facility pioneered the latest fuel technology. It originally ran on coal delivered by rail to the college spur located a few blocks west of the campus. In 1921, the plant switched to fuel oil used in furnaces with special burners. Much cheaper than coal, it was stored in large underground tanks buried west of the Administration Building. Because of enormous pressure from the coal companies and from the governor and politicians, no other institution in Oklahoma ever used fuel oil for its boilers. Ironically, within two years, it was replaced by an even more efficient technology, natural gas. By 1924, only the cafeteria continued to use some limited amounts of the outdated coal. Interestingly, despite its historic stature, because its original integrity has been compromised by several additions, it is not a contributing resource to the Oklahoma College for Women National Historic district.

The original Steam Plant was abandoned for several years before being reclaimed and renovated as the "Art Annex". It continues in use today providing "workshop" space for USAO’s BFA art program in metal, stone, and clay sculpture, jewelry making, ceramics, pottery, and related activities.

The Project Design

The Howard Meredith Indian Humanities Center’s central purpose includes two interrelated functions. One is a necessary prerequisite to the second but major priority of the HMIHC. There must first exist a scholarly environment that encourages full appreciation of the rich texture and powerful content of indigenous Native American ways of knowing and thinking and forms of expression. The cultures of the first peoples of Mexico, the United States, and Canada have been almost unilaterally interpreted by non-Indians primarily in light of West European perspectives. The extraordinary fabric of these many indigenous cultures thus remains significantly misinterpreted or misunderstood and, even more seriously, their complex and wonderfully accomplished mosaics largely ignored as a serious focus for study and research. The facility will afford Native peoples of North America the opportunity to learn about themselves using their own histories, literature, language, oral traditions, and related art forms.

In conjunction with Native Americans studying their own humanities and arts, the HMIHC’s second and essential function is to assist in the development of educational models relevant to the learning needs of North American Indians. The model’s structure stresses interdisciplinary forms to encourage a critical and comparative dialogue between Native American, Western, and other ways of thinking and knowing and forms of expression. It stresses the imperative of a scholarly exchange that acknowledges equals in the design of teaching and learning environments.

There is no program of this type that presently exists anywhere in the academic arena.

The Oklahoma School for Native American Art will address the concern of Native-American leaders statewide that formal mechanisms are not available in Oklahoma devoted to preserving and teaching traditional and contemporary Native American art forms. There are no systematic opportunities, they argue, for native sons and daughters to study and use traditional art forms to creatively define the essence and direction of their living cultural experiences. Despite Oklahoma having the largest, most diverse Native America population in the United States, many of those interested in becoming artists and who wish to study in a formal academic setting presently leave the state to pursue their aspirations elsewhere. There is a strong desire to stem this exodus by offering academic opportunities that will meet the needs of Native Americans at home. Because Native American arts are inseparably linked to community-based song and dance, oral traditions, literature, and language, and to the lively influences of traditional lifestyles, it is all the more imperative that they have the opportunity to celebrate and deliberate on the native arts within their own familiar social and cultural environs.

OSNAA’s design also includes interdisciplinary forms of study involving the arts and other academic disciplines. Its curriculum and staff will provide students the opportunity:

  •  To combine immersion in the arts with comparative study of Native American history and cultural traditions;

  • To integrate study of the arts with concurrent involvement in Native American language research and preservation;

  • To engage in the preservation and revitalization of traditional Native American art forms while exploring novel avenues for moving these traditional forms in experimental and innovative directions;

  • To develop the knowledge base and skills required to succeed in the business of art and artistic endeavor.

The functions of both the OSNAA and the HMIHC rest on a belief that discovery, preservation, and active use of indigenous forms will have a positive and transforming impact on those social and economic conditions affecting Native Americans. The dynamic attributes of a living heritage -- engaged in a lively and rigorous dialogue with Western and world thought -- will kindle the cultural and intellectual self-confidence necessary to Native Americans making a powerful social and economic contribution to themselves and to the larger community in which they live and work.

With its large, diverse Native American population, Oklahoma is centrally and ideally situated in North America to host the HMIHC. Positioned on the frontier of the historic Chickasaw Nation on land bequeathed by a Chickasaw citizen, and for nearly a century serving the Plains Indians to the west, USAO is centrally and ideally located in Oklahoma to host both the HMIHC and the OSNAA.

The Capital Components

A restored Addams Hall will house offices, classrooms, studio and work space, and overnight apartments for the OSNAA and HMIHC. A renovated original Steam Plant ("Art Annex") will provide critically needed "workshop" improvements and expansion for USAO’s existing BFA art program while also serving the additional needs of the OSNAA.

Project Costs

Addams Hall                         $2,500,000.00

Theater Addition to Addams       250,000.00

Art Annex Addition/Renovation   475,000.00

Site Improvements                     95,000.00

Sub Total                              3,320,000.00

Contingence, including architectural fees, furniture, fixtures and equipment, at 25%  $830,000.00

GRAND TOTAL $4,150,000.00

For additional information, call or write:

John Feaver, President
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
Office of the President
1727 West Alabama
Chickasha, OK 73018-5322
Phone: 405-574-1201  Fax: 405-574-1395

Julie Bohannon, Director of Alumni Development
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
Troutt Hall 126
1727 West Alabama
Chickasha, OK 73018-5322
Phone: 405-574-1320   Fax: 405-574-1220

Michael Nealeigh, Director of University Advancement
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
Troutt Hall 106
1727 West Alabama
Chickasha, OK 73018-5322
Phone: 405-574-1324   Fax: 405-574-1220



Visual Restoration plan



Visiual Renovation Plan