TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Today, tribal officials celebrated the grand opening of the Cherokee National Research Center in Tahlequah. The state-of-the-art facility is serving as a temporary home to the Nation’s foremost collection of historic Cherokee-related documents and cultural artifacts from the 1700s through present day.
Just over a year ago, the items were declared in a state of emergency by the Council of the Cherokee Nation due to aging infrastructure and the need for updated environmental controls necessary for proper preservation. Now, thanks to efforts made through the iconic Cherokee Heritage Act of 2020, the public is invited to plan a visit to the Cherokee National Research Center and experience firsthand some of the tribe’s most treasured items.
“Within one year of identifying the threat to our historic archives and records, we stand here today celebrating their safekeeping through this new facility,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Not only are we able to provide safe and secure storage, we’re sharing those items with the public in a new and exciting way. I am beyond thankful for the swift action from the Council of the Cherokee Nation, as well as the support from Cherokee Nation Businesses and the Cherokee National Historical Society. Together, we have ensured that our history will be better preserved and shared for generations to come.”
The center is safeguarding more than 11,000 historic Cherokee-related documents and cultural artifacts within its 5,000-square-foot, fireproof and storm-resistant vault with industry-leading environmental controls. Standout items include a land patent signed by President Martin Van Buren in 1838, which provided Cherokee Nation approximately 14 million acres in Indian Territory, now northeastern Oklahoma; signature furniture owned by Cherokee Chief John Ross from the mid-1800s; and a vast collection of contemporary and historic art from renowned Cherokee artists.
The public can also take advantage of free genealogy services offered by appointment on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as two research rooms for artists, scholars and community members.
“As natural storytellers, the authentic history and culture of the Cherokee people have traditionally been passed down verbally from generation to generation. For far too long, our history and culture have been misrepresented, inaccurately shared or watered down outside of the tribe,” said Travis Owens, vice president of cultural tourism for Cherokee Nation. “Cherokee Nation has taken pride in reclaiming its voice and has dedicated efforts to sharing its history from its own perspective through special projects and exhibits on local, regional and national levels. However, there is something inherently special about seeing that history for yourself and touching it with your own hands. The Cherokee National Research Center is making the history, culture and art of the Cherokee people feel as much yours and mine as it was our ancestors.”
The Cherokee Heritage Center Act of 2020 was presented by Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. to address the critical needs of the archives and plan for the continued growth and long-term success of the Cherokee Heritage Center. With full support from the Council, Cherokee Nation Businesses and the Cherokee National Historical Society, the historic legislation was signed into effect in September 2020.
The Cherokee National Research Center is located inside Cherokee Springs Plaza in Tahlequah.