SHAWNEE, OKLAHOMA -- They are a people whose story is told through both fire and flood.
Tales passed down through the oral history of the Potawatomi people tell of seven prophets.
"It explains the future of the tribe," says curator and archivist Blake Norton. "and also the hardships they would have to face."
Norton and other archivists thought visitors to their new tribal museum ought to begin with those.
He explains, "Ultimately coming into the 7th Fire where a new people would emerge."
The tribe traces its roots back to the Northeast, then to the shores of Lake Michigan.
Each fire prophecy forms a long chapter in their history.
Their first contact with Europeans came near what is now Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The Potawatomies were already a people on the move, adapting to a fast changing world.
Norton continues, "Heeding prophecies that told them to move from the East Coast to the Great Lakes.
They also had to live through the removal period from the Great Lakes to Kansas and Iowa, and then, eventually into Oklahoma."
Through much of three different North American centuries the tribe fought wars, signed some 40 different treaties (more than any other North American tribe), and suffered through four distinct removals.
"They had to create a new life for themselves," he says. "It's definitely a story of adaptation."
The Citizen Potawatomi Nations is now one of seven different bands in the U.S. and two more in Canada.
This museum connects all of them.
"Our mission," says Norton, "Is to have a community and cultural center for and by the community."
Four years ago a broken water main damaged artifacts and closed the old museum.
Curators like Norton took the opportunity to reinvent their story in a much more interactive way.
Norton stands in front of a touch screen map of the Shawnee, Oklahoma region that shows where the original allotments were.
"Let's say you just want to look at the allotments from 1872," he says as he zooms in on the map.
Through fire and flood, war, and removal the Citizen Potawatomies have always survived against forces that seemed much larger and more powerful than themselves.
Theirs is a Native American underdog story that draws a big circle through our continent's history right up to the present.
The Citizen Potawatomi Nation Cultural Center and Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday.
For more information go to http://www.citizenpotawatomi.org