The first of 10 steel columns at the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum’s Hall of the People was erected and set in place Monday morning.

The Hall of the People will be the most visible architectural feature on the 300-acre museum site southeast of the I-35/I-40 interchange. The facility will be used for meetings, events and galleries.

Edmond architects Hornbeek Blatt and California architects Johnson Fain have spent years designing the museum, which is meant to reflect the values of the American Indians. Hornbeek Blatt has been a part of the project since it began almost 14 years ago.

“This is one of those projects that comes along once in a lifetime,” principal Anthony Blatt said. “To be able to work on it is really an honor.”

The museum, which is being funded by the State of Oklahoma,  reflects all Native American tribes that were forced to relocate from their homelands to Indian Territory in the 1830s, said David Hornbeek, principal of Hornbeek Blatt Architects.

Within the next few weeks, 10 columns, 10 arching trusses and one arching rainbow truss will be assembled on the site to form the Hall of People. The 10 columns and trusses represent the estimated 10 miles Native Americans traveled daily to Indian Territory during the forced removal.

After much research and talking with native communities, the architects included many symbolic designs to help tell the American Indian origin and legacy that is part of Oklahoma history.

Hornbeek is devoted and passionate about the museum, on which he has spent more time than any project yet.

“I’ve become radical about getting this story out, because there are things to be learned from the American Indians and our state history,” he said.

The Hall of People will be enclosed in glass representing a lens and a prism to clearly see the multiple differences among the tribes of Oklahoma.

“When you enter into it and look through the glass, we hope that you will refocus your thoughts on Native Americans and see things differently,” Hornbeek said.

The Hall of the People will also be a connector to galleries, an exhibit hall and a library.

Hornbeek Blatt estimates that the museum will be completed in five years.

“When it is completed, I believe it will be the single most important institution that will attract visitors to the state,” Hornbeek said.

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