Sunday, April 25, 2010

Oklahoma’s Oldest Public Building Opens As Cherokee Nation’s First Wholly Owned And Operated Museum

Originally built in 1844, the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is Oklahoma’s oldest public building and will formally operate as the Cherokee Nation’s first wholly owned and operated museum following the dedication on April 7. 2010. The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is located at 122 E. Keetoowah St., Tahlequah, OK 74464.

Leading the dedication will be Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and David Stewart, CEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment. Dr. Bob Blackburn, Executive Director of Oklahoma Historical Society, will deliver the keynote speech and will be joined by Ron Stahl, Co-host of Discover Oklahoma and Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department Representative, who will present a proclamation from the State of Oklahoma recognizing the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum as an “Outstanding Historical Tourism Site.”

“The historical significance of this event cannot be understated with this structure representing the oldest public building in Oklahoma and the site of the first sessions of the Cherokee National Supreme Court more than 165 years ago,” said Smith. “The Cherokee Nation’s commitment to preserving Oklahoma history and the Cherokee Nation legacy is important to all Oklahomans and especially vital to the people of the Cherokee Nation.”

The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is one of several preservation projects recently undertaken by Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Group including Ross Cemetery, the Cherokee National Capitol Building and Cherokee National Prison. Each site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Group will operate the 1,950-square-foot Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum that will feature exhibits in three historic aspects including 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.

“In addition to the four key preservation projects, which are cornerstones for the cultural tourism program, the new museum’s exhibits and artifacts will play a integral role in showing and telling the story of the Cherokee Nation,” said Stewart, who also oversees the Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Group. “With the recent return of the Cherokee Advocate printing press, the museum has a tremendous asset that will enable guests to better understand the challenges of the Cherokee people in obtaining the news and information of that period.”

The Cherokee Nation recently acquired on loan the last printing press for the Cherokee Advocate from the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Okla., which will serve as one of the main highlights of the museum.

The Cherokee Advocate was the first newspaper in Indian Territory, which later became Oklahoma, and, at the time, the only tribal-owned and published newspaper in the United States. Written in both Cherokee and English, the Cherokee Advocate was the primary means of the Cherokee Nation to inform its people from 1844 to 1906 and was printed in the Cherokee National Supreme Court Building at several points of time over its history.

The first issue of the Cherokee Advocate was published on September 26, 1844, with its last issue leaving the press on March 3, 1906. At the time the federal government was in the process of shutting down the Cherokee Nation government and its citizens were being forced to enroll for land allotments. In 1911 the printing office, printing press, and other equipment were sold to the publisher of the New Era newspaper in Fort Gibson, Okla., for $151.00. The Cherokee syllabary typeset was sent to the Smithsonian Institute for preservation.

Southwest Museum Services in Houston designed and fabricated the interior museum space to create an engaging and interactive guest experience. Past clients include Space Center Houston in Houston, Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, and the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock, Ark., among others.

The Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Group also operates four historically authentic tours that include lunch and feature an interpretative guide on the Cherokee History Tour, Cherokee Old Settler Tour, Civil War History Tour, and Will Rogers History Tour.

The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm. Admission is adults $5, seniors $3, students $3, and children under 5 free. A group rate is available at $3 per person for 10 or more individuals.

For information on the Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism program, call (877) 779-6977 or visit

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