The Otoe-Missouria Tribe

The Otoe-Missouria Tribe

Photo Exhibit at Pioneer Woman Museum

on May 21, 2018

Otoe-Missouria Exhibit to Open at Pioneer Woman Museum

By the Otoe-Missouria Public Information Office


Ponca City, OKLA--A special exhibit of historical photographs and artifacts from the Otoe-Missouria Tribe opens May 23rd at the Pioneer Woman Museum in Ponca City and will remain on display through December 2018.


The exhibit began in 2011 as an outreach project for the Otoe-Missouria Public Information Office. 

The photos and artifacts in the collection were either donated to the Otoe-Missouria Public Information Office by tribal members or included by agreement with museums and historical archive throughout the United States.


“We now have over 150 photos in the Otoe-Missouria Photo Archive, but the exhibit only shows 35 photos and videos,” Heather Payne Public Information Officer says. “The photos in the exhibit correlate with historical high points and culturally relevant topics. In addition, this year, we will be displaying an Otoe-Missouria turban. This will be the first time this circa 1900 traditional headdress will be on display.”


In 2013, the exhibit was on display at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. As the exhibit grew, it got the attention of museum curators in the region.


“The Executive Director of the Standing Bear Museum in Ponca City visited the exhibit,” Payne says. “She was interested in having the display set up at Standing Bear, but that didn’t pan out. And over the years, we have been unable to get the exhibit set up at Standing Bear due to their limited availability of space for temporary exhibits. It would be the perfect location, but we just haven’t been able to make it happen.”


Payne says that the mission of the Pioneer Woman Museum ties in well with the exhibit. The mission of the museum is to preserve the legacy of women from all races, creeds, and nationalities who have contributed to the development of Oklahoma. The museum is dedicated to the enduring spirit of women—past, present, and future—who see no boundaries. 


“I had to make a few changes to the exhibit,” Payne says. “I added more photos of women and children. These strong Otoe-Missouria women pioneered a new life in Oklahoma. A place they had never been before and that they didn’t choose to live. They came as refugees—forced to leave their homeland. They survived and carried with them what traditions they could even under pressure to assimilate and give up their old ways. They endured.”


Payne says that some images in the collection were edited out of the exhibit because they were such low quality that they couldn’t be enlarged enough for the gallery.

“A lot of the photos were brought into my office by family members for me to use,” Payne says, “but the quality of the photos was sometimes very low. Often all that I had was a copy of a copy of a copy. The resolution was so poor that it couldn’t be used at all. Thank goodness for graphic artist Kennetha Greenwood who really worked hard to get some of the images up to museum quality again.”

The information about the images has also been a challenge for Payne. She says there have been several instances where information about the people in the photo is unclear.

“There are at least two photos in the collection that the identity of the people in the photo is challenged by different families,” Payne says. “One family says it is their grandfather so-and-so and another family says it is their grandfather so-and-so. How do you decide who is right? You can’t. You just have to say that there is a disagreement about the identity of this person on the text panel and provide the information you have at hand. Every year I make edits and changes to the information with the photos. It’s an evolving project.”

Payne says she worked to make the exhibit interesting to Otoe-Missouria tribal members, but still basic enough for the general public to appreciate.


“It’s funny because you get so used to talking to other Native people that you forget sometimes that the terms, language and words used in Indian Country aren’t universal,” Payne says. “The Pioneer Woman Museum Director Kelly Houston and her staff have been really great about asking good questions and making sure I explained things for a broad audience. I hope the result is educational for everyone.”


The Pioneer Woman Museum staff and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe will host several events this year in coordination with the exhibit including activities for groups this summer and special events for schools in the fall.


The Pioneer Woman Museum is located at 701 Monument Rd, Ponca City, OK. They are open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more about the Otoe-Missouria Tribe visit