The Cherokee people are deeply connected to the land and historic locations across our reservation in northeast Oklahoma. Decades before statehood, Cherokees built the first schools, courthouses, modern roads and more in this place. The historic sites on our reservation are a testament to the resilience of the Cherokee people, who built thriving new communities from scratch after our removal on the Trail of Tears.
Cherokee Nation is committed to celebrating and preserving those historically significant sites. They are vital reminders of our history, and we must preserve them to honor the accomplishments and sacrifices of our ancestors and to educate future generations.
I recently signed new legislation that commits $1 million to preserve places of significance in Cherokee history, as well as to commission official biographies and historical publications. I appreciate the Council of the Cherokee Nation for unanimously supporting the proposal for the Cherokee Nation Historic Places Preservation Fund put forward by Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and myself.
The new fund will support restoration and maintenance of properties listed on the Cherokee Nation Registry of Historic Places. The registry currently lists 16 sites that are important to our tribe and for all Oklahomans, as they are part of our state’s collective history.
The new law, which amends the Cherokee Nation Registry of Historic Places Act of 2019, creates a dedicated funding stream by transferring $1 million of existing cultural review revenue. Going forward, the fund will receive annual proceeds of agriculture and business leases of up to $1 million per year. The new fund will also receive 50% of fines collected for violations of the Historic Registry Act.
By investing in historic preservation, we are also creating opportunities for economic development and cultural tourism. Visitors from all over the globe travel to our 7,000-square-mile reservation to learn about Cherokee culture and history. These sites create opportunities for meaningful experiences and a better appreciation of Cherokee culture.
Our efforts to preserve our history are not limited to physical restoration of these sites. We also know it’s important to share the stories associated with them. The exhibits and programs developed by our Cultural Tourism division provide that deeper understanding of Cherokee culture and history. The expanded law also authorizes the Secretary of Natural Resources’ office to commission official biographies of former Principal Chiefs and official histories of the tribe’s legislative and judicial branches.
We recently added the Little Flock Baptist Church in Nowata County to the historic registry. Cherokee Freedmen and others in the community formed the congregation in 1887. Built in the early 1900s, the church was a center of religious, educational, and cultural life for the surrounding Cherokee Freedmen community for more than 100 years. The structure showcases the unique stone masonry work commonly found in Cherokee Freedmen communities.
Knowledge of our history is a great inspiration for our lives today. We cannot understand the present without knowing how we got here, including both the highs and the lows. The darker parts of history can sometimes make us uncomfortable, but it is foolish to flinch away. Instead, we must be open to the whole story, to build on the successes of our ancestors and to learn from their mistakes.
Chuck Hoskin Jr.