TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Forty years ago, Cherokee Nation regained ownership of three of its most iconic structures: its prison, Supreme Court and Capitol buildings.
A new exhibit at the Cherokee National Prison Museum is showcasing the history behind the structures and their evolution to serving as influential museums within the tribe’s tourism offerings today.
“Ownership Regained, Legacy Preserved” opens to the public July 12 through Jan. 31, 2020.
“Through Cherokee Nation’s steadfast commitment to cultural and historic preservation, these buildings have been repaired and restored to their period of historical significance and now serve as museums to entertain and educate visitors about the history and culture of the Cherokee people,” said Travis Owens, director of cultural tourism for Cherokee Nation Businesses. “The anniversary exhibit takes a closer look at each structure’s history and shares the lesser known stories about how these buildings were used before we regained ownership.”
The Cherokee National Prison once served as the only penitentiary building in Indian Territory from 1875 to 1901. Today, the interpretive site and museum educates visitors about law and order in Indian Territory. It features a blacksmith area; reconstructed gallows; exhibits about famous prisoners and daring escapes, local outlaws, and Cherokee patriots; jail cells; and much more.
Originally built in 1844, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court is Oklahoma’s oldest public building. Today, the 1,950-square-foot museum features exhibits on three historic aspects: the Cherokee National Judicial System; the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers; and the Cherokee language, with a variety of historical items, including photos, stories, objects and furniture. Touch-screen kiosks offer visitors documentary-style learning on various legal topics as well as teaching conversational Cherokee.
The Cherokee National Capitol housed the tribe’s executive, legislative and judicial offices until 1906 and was most recently home to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court until fall 2018. The tribe began renovations in April 2018 to prepare the building to serve as the Cherokee National History Museum, slated to open later this summer.
With the addition of the John Ross Museum and Sequoyah’s Cabin Museum, Cherokee Nation owns and operates five museums, eight gift shops and two welcome centers.
Cherokee Nation museums are open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information on Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, including museum operations, please call (877) 779-6977 or visit www.VisitCherokeeNation.com.