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Native American Cultural Center

Gen. Butler Park selected for new center

Native Americans meet to plan project

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (January 2004) – On Tuesday, Dec. 16, members of the Kentucky Center for Native American Arts and Culture met at Gen. Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton, Ky. Before sitting down to a formal meeting to discuss plans for a proposed Native American cultural center at the park, several members joined in a small ceremony near the grounds of the former Ski Butler area to pray for the success of the project.

Native American board

Photo by Ruth Wright

The Native American Center board.

Among them was the group’s president Stephen LaBoueff, also known as Black Bear.
A descendent of the Blackfeet, LaBoueff is part of an 11-member board appointed to oversee the project, unveiled last fall by former Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton. Patton announced in November during Native American Indiana Month that an 85-acre tract of land at General Butler had been made available for a Native American Arts and Cultural Center. Part of the approximately 800-acre General Butler state park, the land was formerly used as a ski resort called Ski Butler and includes a lodge building.
General Butler was among three prospective locations being considered for the center, according to the state’s Native American Heritage Commission vice chair Tom Jones, also present at the December meeting. The other sites were Greenbo Lake State Resort Park in Eastern Kentucky and Ben Hawes State Park in Western Kentucky. General Butler was selected based on location and economics, not the least of which included a high-traffic location and an existing infrastructure of roads and utilities, said Jones.
Now that a site has been confirmed, the board plans to develop a feasibility study, which will include a thorough evaluation of the existing ski lodge. Used primarily for storage in the decade since it closed, the lodge has deteriorated substantially over the years, according to General Butler park manager Stephen Jones. Initial inspections have indicated that the foundation of the building appears to be solid, but a more comprehensive appraisal will have to be completed before a decision is made about the building’s potential use, said LaBoueff.

Stephen LeBoueff
Stephen LeBoueff

Preliminary plans call for a 6,500-square-foot facility and an outdoor performance area. “The vision for the complex is to include a small museum and library, art gallery and public performance grounds,” said LaBoueff.
While much has been discussed, the project is still in its infancy and much work lies ahead, LaBoueff said during an interview prior to the board meeting. “I think this is going to be a long-term project,” he said. He estimates that the project could take as many 10 years to complete.
Now in its initial planning stage, the board will begin making specific design plans for the center and will determine an approach to fund raising. Private contributions as well as federal programs, which include funding of museums and libraries, are a couple of options.
Collection of artifacts will also be a major focus of the board. It is hoped that private collections, as well as collections held in several state universities, will be donated to the center, said Tom Jones. The center will also apply to the Smithsonian Institution Affiliate Program, which will allow it to share exhibits with the museum, according to LaBoueff.
In addition to LaBoueff and Jones, board members present at the meeting included vice-president and architect David Presnell; artist and scholar Bruce Brading; and architect and community planner Duraid Da’as. The group, which also included other state and local officials, later convened for a private meeting.
The Kentucky Native-American Heritage Commission was formed in 1996 with the goal of recognizing, appreciating and understanding “the significant contributions Native Americans have made to Kentucky’s rich cultural heritage.”
Cherokee, Chickasaw and Shawnee were the most influential tribes in Kentucky, according to the Kentucky Historical Society. The last Shawnee settlement in Kentucky, abandoned by 1754, was located in what is now Clark County. A number of Chickasaw lived in Western Kentucky, while a few Cherokee inhabited the southeastern part of the state. According to the society, a number of Cherokee living in Eastern Kentucky married into local white families. For this reason, it is believed that most people who have Native American ancestry from Kentucky are descended from the Cherokee nation.
Many area residents have noted evidence of Native American presence in the Carroll County area. Among them is Jim Klingler, a retired Dow Corning employee and Carroll County resident who has been collecting Native American artifacts since 1965.
“Some are fairly simple; others (were) made with a lot of skill,” said Klingler, who has found in fields between Markland Dam and the Ohio River Bridge in Milton artifacts such as rudimentary tools and arrowheads.
It is believed that today more than 6,000 Native Americans call Kentucky home. Not only will the development of a Native American cultural center honor the rich diversity and heritage of these people, it will also serve as an educational and economic tool for Carroll County, officials say.
“We believe that this can be of great economic benefit for the Carrollton area, as well as for General Butler Park and the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said LaBoueff.

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