The Cherokee Nation is celebrating the purchase and acquisition of the historic home of legendary statesman and inventor of the Cherokee syllabary, Sequoyah.
“We are so proud to assume ownership and management of this historical site, and we welcome the opportunity to give it the respect and reverence it deserves,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “In our tribe’s long and storied history, Sequoyah made an everlasting impact and truly changed the way our people communicate, share ideas and preserve history. He was a genius who advanced the Cherokee Nation and our rich culture. He reshaped the future of Cherokees and all Native people, not just seven generations but infinite generations.”
Cherokee Nation officials formalized the purchase of Sequoyah’s Cabin from the Oklahoma Historical Society with a signing ceremony Wednesday, November 9, 2016. The state of Oklahoma is no longer able to operate and maintain the site due to budget cuts.
The popular tourist attraction was constructed by Sequoyah in 1829 and welcomes more than 12,000 visitors each year. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and a National Literary Landmark in 2006. The homestead includes a one-room cabin and nearly 200 acres.
“Since 1902 and federal enforcement of allotment, the Cherokee people have suffered a gradual loss of their homeland,” said Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. “I want to thank Chief Baker and his staff for working with us in such a cooperative manner, state to nation. We are thankful to have had such a longstanding relationship with the Cherokee Nation and appreciate their willingness to get involved in this project.”
Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin, who also serves in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, played a vital role in finding a solution for the site.
“Our ability to partner with the state’s historical society benefits all students of history in northeast Oklahoma,” said Hoskin. “It makes perfect sense that Cherokee Nation is finally acquiring ownership of the site. Our operation of the cabin and the surrounding land will enable us, as Cherokees, to tell the story of Sequoyah through a uniquely Cherokee perspective. We will be able to do it in our own words and in our own language, which he helped advance.”
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.
“It’s an honor to represent the people and the district, where such a significant landmark of our tribal history resides,” said District 6 Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Bryan Warner. “The fiscal resources the tribe can invest, coupled with our cultural tourism marketing abilities, ensure we maintain a world-class tribute to arguably the most famous Cherokee in history.”
Sequoyah’s Cabin will continue operations under Cherokee Nation Businesses and be managed by the cultural tourism department. 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 feature Cherokee merchandise, clothing and information on Cherokee attractions.