The mission of our Native American Program is to support projects, programs, and initiatives that increase our understanding of the American Indian experience in Missouri through preservation, interpretation, and public programming.

We engage audiences with information on cultural history, education, preservation, and the arts. We also connect people to Missouri’s Native American Heritage through virtual and in person experiences such as mapping the Trail of Tears and by documenting and cataloging artifacts and historical sites.

Missouri 2021 Bicentennial: Native American Heritage Challenge

Missourians know so little of our rich Native American presence – mainly because a state law in 1839 made it illegal for Indians to reside in our state, a statute that was reinforced as late as 1899, and only repealed in 1909. There are many other states without permanent Native community, whether it is reservation, trust land, state recognized or federally recognized tribe. Yet, local, state and national parks across Missouri tell the story of our Native presences, and not just about the Osage but all numerous other tribes who call Missouri home.  

Click the link below to find the Native American Heritage Challenge that will take you throughout Missouri to explore and learn. A guide is provided for each challenge. Once you have completed a challenge, submit your photographs to receive your merit badge button. Share your photographs on social media using the hashtag #MOExplorers!

 Trail of Tears Mapping

Over the past two years we have been dedicated to mapping the Trail of Tears in Missouri. We’ve worked collaboratively with a skilled team of experts, researchers, locals, and descendants to create our interpretive map highlighting historical sits and trails across the state. work with geospacial engineers and have created an interactive map highlighting historical sites and trails throughout the state. The work, led by our staff Archaeologist Erin Whitson, is ever-changing and evolving over time. Feel free to check back to see how we’ve progressed!

To view our work on the Trail of Tears, click on the link below.

Digadohi Documentary Project

Our dedication to preserving the Native American cultural experience within the state of Missouri is captured through our major funding in supporting the documentary film Digadohi, Lands, Cherokee, and the Trail of Tears“DIGADOHI” means “lands” in Cherokee. The story of the Cherokee’s removal from their homeland is recorded in the archaeology at places like the Snelson-Brinker farm in Missouri, and in the traditions and family histories of the Cherokee today. On July 4th, 2017 the historic Snelson-Brinker cabin was burnt to the ground. Using cutting edge archaeological methods and archival research, a group of community activists and Cherokee leaders worked to rescue a historic property from the arsonist’s flames and identify the graves of the Cherokee who died there on the Trail of Tears. Filming for DIGADOHI began in November of 2017 at archaeological and historic sites along the route from Cherokee homelands in the East, to Oklahoma. The film chronicles a year of those investigations and weaves the family stories – European, African, and Native – that were unearthed there into the national story of America. Ultimately the Cherokee story is one of survival and passing on a living culture and tradition to their children. 

Our hope is that over the coming years we continue our preservation work through partnerships and projects with regional Native American Tribes, state and local agencies and communities. For more information on our Native American Program, email Ashley Beard-Fosnow at 

For more information on our Archaeological efforts, email Erin Whitson at

Upcoming Events}

To view MO Humanities Calendar Events, including Native American Events, visit our calendar.

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