Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Budget Cuts Threaten Sequoyah’s Cabin; Cherokee Nation May Purchase the Property

The Oklahoma Historical Society is in preliminary meetings with the Cherokee Nation in an effort to maintain and keep open the Sequoyah’s Cabin historical site in Sequoyah County.

Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the historical society, and Bryan Warner, Cherokee Nation Tribal Council member for District 6, confirmed Wednesday the society is in preliminary talks with the Cherokee Nation to transfer the site. Blackburn was out of his office, but confirmed through the society’s media person, Larry O’Dell, that the society’s board and Cherokee Nation officials have set up a formal meeting in the near future to discuss how to keep Sequoyah’s Cabin open. O’Dell did not have a definite date for the meeting.

Warner said Cherokee Nation officials are researching the project now. He said he did not know what the property could be valued or appraised at. He said the property includes 180 to 200 acres in addition to the historical site itself.

“I have no idea,” Warner said about the property’s worth. “The Cherokee Nation wants to be fair with the state.

“We have no intention of letting it go,” Warner emphasized. “It’s been on our radar for a while now.”

The historical society has suffered from severe budget cuts by the state, resulting in the loss of staff and open hours at the society’s library, and threatening historical sites throughout the state. In some cases community residents are answering the call to raise funds and volunteer to maintain historical sites.

O’Dell said the society is having to consider closing sites, or finding “partners to help keep them open” because of the budget cuts. 

But O’Dell said about Sequoyah’s Cabin, “We will not walk away from it.”

Warner said Cherokee Nation ownership of the historical site would be good for Cherokee and all area residents.

“I think it would be a good thing to take it over. There are so many things we could do with it,” Warner said. He mentioned holding meetings, conventions, family reunions and educational activities at the site. Some Cherokee families have even had an interest in modern interments in the cemetery, which is closed by the state. But the cemetery could be reopened if owned by the Cherokee Nation.

As it is now, Sequoyah’s Cabin only costs about $100,000 a year to maintain, Warner estimated.

In a press release issued last month the historical society explained how the budget cuts by the state were impacting the historical society.

Beginning Aug. 1, the historical society is cutting hours at the Oklahoma History Center Research Library by closing on Mondays.

Blackburn said the closing is only one part of a system-wide reduction in service to the community.

“This year,” Blackburn said, “the cuts have forced us to eliminate another 20 staff positions, defer maintenance for historical properties and reduce operational budgets at 21 museums and sites across the state.”

Closing the library at the Oklahoma History Center on Mondays was a last resort, said Blackburn.

“Although our budget allocation from general revenue has been cut almost 40 percent since 2008, we had maintained traditional hours of operation by pulling resources out of collections care and resorting to part-time, seasonal employees,” said Blackburn. “Due to the high level of personal service in the library, this last cut could not be absorbed without reducing hours.”

The history of Sequoyah’s Cabin can be found on the society’s web site.

Sequoyah built the one-room log cabin in 1829 shortly after moving to Oklahoma. The cabin became the property of the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1936, and the cabin was enclosed in a stone cover building as a project of the Works Progress Administration. In 1965 the Secretary of the Interior designated the site as a National Historic Landmark.

Sequoyah was born in Tennessee about 1778. Though lame in one leg, Sequoyah became known as a skilled blacksmith and silversmith as well as an artist. In 1809 he began experimenting with a written alphabet for the Cherokee language, and eventually developed the Cherokee syllabary.

Sequoyah left his eastern home in 1818 to operate a salt production and blacksmith works near present-day Russellville, Ark. In 1828 Sequoyah joined a delegation sent to Washington, D.C., by the Arkansas Cherokee to make a treaty to exchange their lands for lands in Indian Territory. Following this trip, Sequoyah traded his land and salt works for land located on Big Skin Bayou Creek in Indian Territory where he built the log cabin.

The Oklahoma Historical Society was founded in 1893 by members of the Oklahoma Territory Press Association, and now has 35 museums and historic sites statewide.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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