The Cherokee National Museum has been located on the grounds of the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma. Photo: Anadisgoi / Cherokee Nation
New Cherokee National Research Center will protect tribe’s iconic documents, artifacts
Monday, March 15, 2021
Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation’s most iconic and historic documents and artifacts are moving to a new, temporary home. The Cherokee National Research Center is scheduled to open later this summer at the Cherokee Springs Plaza in Tahlequah. The documents will remain at the new center while a long-term plan is developed for their current home, the Cherokee Heritage Center.

This collection is the foremost assembly of historic, Cherokee-related documents and cultural treasures from the 1700s through present day. Most of the items are one of a kind. They trace the remarkable history and evolution of the Cherokee Nation, and they are a tangible representation of the strength, genius and perseverance of the Cherokee people.

Last September my administration worked with the Council of the Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee National Historical Society to usher in a new era for the Cherokee Heritage Center. The Cherokee Heritage Center Act of 2020 set in motion the transfer of the center’s collections and property to the Cherokee Nation and created a new advisory body for oversight and the development of a strategic plan.

Cherokee Heritage Center Act
Seated, from left: Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Speaker of the Council Joe Byrd, and Cherokee National Historical Society board president Brenda Partain celebrate the signing of the Cherokee Heritage Center Act of 2020 outside the iconic Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma, on September 24, 2020. Photo: Anadisgoi / Cherokee Nation

Since then we have been working on addressing the center’s aging infrastructure, modernizing the archival processes and adopting environmental controls, all to keep the center’s collections safe and secure. By acting swiftly, we ensured these precious artifacts of our culture will be here for our children, grandchildren and generations to come to learn from and enjoy.

The new site will also improve accessibility of historically significant tribal records. The new Cherokee National Research Center includes a 5,000-square-foot fireproof and storm-resistant vault with industry-leading environmental controls, as well as two research rooms for artists, scholars and community members. Historians and genealogists can access information they need while maintaining the safety of the items. A public genealogy center will allow access to research materials and support from genealogy staff by appointment.

At the same time, the changes and investment at the Cherokee Heritage Center represent an important investment in our future. The newly formed Cherokee National Historical Society will soon be announcing a board of directors to help guide the heritage center’s next chapter and ensure it continues to be the heart of Cherokee Nation’s efforts in cultural preservation.

We are only able to expand today because of the excellent foundation established by the Cherokee National Historical Society’s visionary leaders. They established a hub of Cherokee history, culture and education that has enabled the tribe to share Cherokee heritage with the world. Over the years, these leaders worked diligently to keep the collections safe, secure and accessible. We are grateful to carry on their legacy with this new chapter.

These are exciting changes. With them comes the sense of relief that the preservation of our history is secured. We can continue looking forward while knowing our past is in good hands. It will not be forgotten or discarded.

Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the 18th elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, the largest Indian tribe in the United States. He is only the second elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from Vinita, the first being Thomas Buffington, who served from 1899-1903. Prior to being elected Principal Chief, Hoskin served as the tribe’s Secretary of State. He also formerly served as a member of the Council of the Cherokee Nation, representing District 11 for six years.