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Eastern Shawnee Tribe splash-pad connects citizens to Ohio homelands

Opening day for the Ohio River Valley Splash Pad in northeastern Oklahoma
Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
Opening day for the Ohio River Valley Splash Pad in northeastern Oklahoma

The new Ohio River Valley Splash-Pad water park in northeastern Oklahoma is keeping kids cool this summer, and helping Eastern Shawnee citizens feel a connection to their homelands.

The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma named the new splash-pad after the Ohio River Valley because of its design: the river's winding path is painted in blue on the ground of the pad.

The Ohio valley is the Eastern Shawnee homeland and the tribe followed the river West during their forced removal by the US Government in the eighteen thirties.

The splash pad references those removals with plaques listing how many days, miles and steps the tribe took to travel from Ohio to Oklahoma. Eastern Shawnee Chief Glenna Wallace said she hopes the pad will teach young citizens about their tribe’s resilience.

“The one message that we always want to send is we didn't die out.” Wallace said, “We are still alive. We are still here. We are still a tribe.”

Chief Wallace said the splash pad was partially funded by a US government COVID-relief grant that was intended to get children outdoors.

“It's difficult to constantly teach your history when we're all so busy,” Wallace said. “As our elders pass away, this was an easy way to remind young citizens, for them to see, and perhaps become a little curious and do some research on their own about their tribe.”

The Eastern Shawnee of Oklahoma have close to four thousand enrolled citizens. They are one of three federally recognized Shawnee tribes.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.