National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum has a new project.
Legendary sharpshooter Annie Oakley’s secret to hitting “the bull’seye of success” was simple but memorable.
“Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting,” she said.
That’s what the Annie Oakley Society of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum has in mind with its ambitious new project: an indooroutdoor multimillion-dollar educational expansion designed to give children and families a new interactive experience.
“Liichokoshkomo’ is really a special project for the Annie Oakley Society and the museum as a whole,” society Director Diana Fields said. “We really look at it as being the next generation of interactivity that’s hands-on and minds-on in support of ... the museum’s mission to share the West.”
Liichokoshkomo’ (pronounced Lee-chokosh-ko-MO’) is named for a the Chickasaw phrase for “let’s play.” It will combine STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and character development-based learning into a sprawling children’s area featuring an intertribal Native American village, a trading post, a bison exhibit and more.
“The Chickasaw Nation is a great partner of the Annie Oakley Society and the museum as a whole.
So, we wanted to honor that partnership and really wanted to have a name that encompassed ... what you feel as you come to the space. So, ‘let’s play,’” Fields said.
“We asked Josh Hinson at the Chickasaw Nation in their language department if he could translate that for us, and he was able to come up with Liichokoshkomo’.”
Over the past year and a half, the Annie Oakley Society has raised funds for a $15 million capital campaign to turn Liichokoshkomo’ into a reality. With more than 93 percent of funds raised, the society in November hosted a groundbreaking ceremony.
“It’s so exciting that it’s going to expand beyond the wonderful things that are here and add an element that has been missing, that kind of interactivity — being able to be outside, being able to climb on, get on to, touch things — and it’s the full story (of the West),” said Seth Spillman, the museum’s chief marketing officer.
Even with the stuffed mountain lion standing guard atop towering boulders, there’s an air of disregard in the museum’s Children’s Cowboy Corral. Fields said the path to Liichokoshkomo’ started in 2010 with plans to renovate the children’s annex.
“But it has morphed into this project ... that really we hope will touch the lives of all children and families here in Oklahoma and who visit the museum,” she said. “It is underutilized, and it’s also something that needs to be refreshed.”
Not only will the Children’s Cowboy Corral get an overhaul, but the museum’s Prosperity Junction, a replica Old West cattle town, also will be expanded.
“We’ll actually start the town on the outside ... and have a train depot here,” Fields said. “Then, we really want to help add some elements to bring Prosperity Junction more to life. ... We’re really trying to make it a more engaging space.”
The outdoor plaza in between the museum wing housing Prosperity Junction and the Children’s Cowboy Corral also will boast a replica tent city for railway workers and a pioneer wagon where youngsters can figure how much to haul out west.
“Children will have to choose between wants and needs because you’ll see that all your flour for the journey would weigh as much as a piano: Which one would you take? ... We like to call it hands-on, minds-on; we want children while they’re playing to be building those criticalthinking skills,” Fields said.
The grounds behind the Children’s Cowboy Corral will be transformed into an intertribal Native American village featuring a Pawnee earth lodge, a Kiowa tepee and a mock-up Mesa Verde with Pueblo cliff dwellings.
“We’re trying to basically teach and show the diversity of Native peoples,” Fields said. “We’ll have community involvement from each Native American tribe that’s represented.”
Once the necessary permits are in place, Fields said construction on Liichokoshkomo’ will begin early this year, with completion planned for spring 2020.
It’s an ambitious goal, but she said the Annie Oakley Society takes its cues from its namesake.
“One of her mottos is ‘Aim high and dream big,’ and we really try to do that,” Fields said.
Construction will begin early this year on Liichokoshkomo’, a world-class, indoor-outdoor, hands-on learning environment at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Named for the the Chickasaw phrase for “let’s play,” it will offer families and children interactive opportunities to learn about a Western heritage, culture and values.
The Children’s Cowboy Corral, pictured above, at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum will be transformed in the creation of Liichokoshkmo’, as seen in an illustration below.