On a hill overlooking the Arkansas River in Tulsa, an enormous oak tree grows, its roots tightly twisted through the earth after hundreds of years in the soil.
Until recently, it stood in the park without commentary "? the reason for the fence around it unexplained. Finally, this fall, a monument was completed to assure that visitors remember its historical significance.
Designed by architect Richard Thornton and sculptor Dan Brook, the monument recognizes the use of the Council Oak Tree in 1836 by the Lochapoka clan of the Creek Indians for their first council meeting in what is now Oklahoma, following their involuntary migration. Materials used to build the monument came from both Georgia and Oklahoma, to represent the home many Creeks left and their new settlement in Indian Territory.
In the monument's center are three entwined bronze tendrils sculpted by Brook that stand at 18 feet tall, each polished and angled to reflect the rise of the sun in the east, which Thornton said "symbolizes the Creeks' sacred fire."
Around this abstracted flame is a 30-feet-in-diameter plaza with rims of gravel from a river in Georgia and terrazzo made from Oklahoma red granite, simulating the kiln Creeks used to fire their pottery and using patterns that decorated them. Within the rims is a marble Etalwa Cross.
"The cross was found on the clothing of the Creeks' ancestors," Thornton said. "The actual marble in the monument came from a quarry in a valley where the Creeks a thousand years ago got marble to make marble statues."
The monument includes eight bronze plaques that give an overview of Creek history, from their origins in Mexico to their move to what is now Tulsa. After the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 under President Andrew Jackson, thousands of American Indian communities were forced to move from the Southeastern United States to what was Indian Territory.
The Council Oak Tree Monument can be viewed at the northwest corner of the Creek Council Oak Tree Park, 1750 S. Cheyenne in Tulsa.