LOOK BACK: The Turtle opens in Niagara Falls in 1981


NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — It took four long years for the Turtle to come to life in Niagara Falls.

Native Americans are rich in culture and have passed on a lifestyle of tradition and culture through the years. On May 15, 1981, their offspring announced the birth of a landmark – The Turtle, a six and a half million dollar structure designed by an Arapahoe Indian architect.

Inside, culture appeared on canvas and stone.  And this is just a small sample of what was there.

The opening of the Turtle was a milestone in the self-determination of the Native American people. There, their culture, as proud as it could be, was on display for the world to see.

Oren Lyons said “This is a very special place for the Indian Nation. This is where the founding voices live.”

The Turtle is symbolic of the Earth, and it had been a long hard battle to secure funding. The center for Native Americans had local support from the young and old.

“So much of our local identity,” Joyce Pembleton said. “To let the public know what the people are really like.”

One child said “ I really like the things and stuff.”

Another supporter was Iron Eyes Cody, who was known for the “Keep America Clean Campaign.”

“It is probably one of the proudest moments of American Indians today,” he said at the time.

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