September 2, 2016
The homestead of famed Cherokee statesman and inventor of the Cherokee syllabary includes a one-room cabin and more than 200 acres
SALLISAW, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation is moving forward with the purchase and acquisition of the historic home of legendary statesman and inventor of the Cherokee syllabary, Sequoyah.
Sequoyah’s Cabin, near Sallisaw, Oklahoma, is currently owned and operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society and is a popular tourist attraction in Sequoyah County. The Historical Society, an agency of the state of Oklahoma, has needed to divest itself of the property due to state budget cuts.
“Sequoyah is one of our most well-known statesmen and historical figures, and his contributions to the Cherokee Nation are immeasurable,” said Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin. “His invention of the Cherokee syllabary may be one of the single most important contributions to the advancement of the Cherokee people and Cherokee society. The Cherokee Nation is taking an important step by ensuring the preservation of Sequoyah’s homestead.”
Sequoyah, also known as George Guess or George Gist, was born in Tennessee around 1778. He began experimenting with an alphabet for the Cherokee language, and it was complete in the 1820s. The Cherokees were the first Indian tribe to develop a written alphabet, known as the Cherokee syllabary. Literacy rates among Cherokees soared within just a few years.
Sequoyah was among the “Old Settlers” of the Cherokee Nation, who migrated to present-day Oklahoma and western Arkansas in approximately 1818, prior to the Trail of Tears. Built in1829, the one-room log cabin and more than 200 acres were acquired by the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1936. In 1965, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
“Over the past eight years, the state appropriation to the Oklahoma Historical Society has been cut by 40 percent,” said Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. “Fortunately for us and the legacy of Sequoyah, the Cherokee Nation is willing to assume ownership and keep the site open.”
“It’s unfortunate that after 80 years, the state no longer has the resources to manage and maintain the property, because the significance of Sequoyah’s homestead cannot be overstated,” Hoskin said. “Our planned acquisition of the cabin is another example of the Cherokee Nation relieving the state of public use facilities that might otherwise be closed.”
In recent years the Cherokee Nation also assumed ownership of two Oklahoma welcome centers, one in east Tulsa and one in Kansas, Oklahoma. The centers still operate as welcome centers and now also feature Cherokee merchandise, clothing and information on Cherokee attractions. Chief of Staff Hoskin, who also serves in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, has worked with the Oklahoma Historical Society for months to find a solution for the site.
“Chief of Staff Hoskin singlehandedly led the effort to secure Sequoyah’s Cabin for our people,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “It’s fortunate for all of us that he has spent years developing a strong relationship with Dr. Blackburn. It’s what allowed this project to advance for the benefit of the Cherokee Nation, the state of Oklahoma and the thousands of tourists that visit this historic site each year. I commend Chuck on his vision, determination and leadership to see this mission through.”