Cherokee Heritage Center, Gourd part ways
Charles Gourd, then-executive director of the Cherokee Heritage Center, takes part in the annual Trail of Tears Art Show on April 5, 2019. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
PARK HILL – Charles Gourd, executive director of the Cherokee Heritage Center since 2017, has departed for an education-related job within the Cherokee Nation, according to the Cherokee National Historical Society, which oversees the cultural site.
“Dr. Gourd recently accepted a new position supporting Cherokee Nation in its education department,” Brenda Partain, CNHS board of trustees president, said. “We wish him the best of luck in his new role and thank him for the time he spent at CHC.”
Gourd, a Cherokee Nation citizen with a background in nonprofit fundraising and Native American affairs, was appointed to the position in mid-2017. He was responsible for overseeing the center’s operation, as well as preserving the tribe’s collection of documents, artifacts, photos and books.
At the time, Gourd described his new endeavor as “somewhat of a homecoming for me, as I was one of the first tour guides at CHC and also participated in the Trail of Tears drama when I was young. I have worked for the tribe off and on throughout my lifetime, but this position felt more like a calling than a job, so I came out of retirement to serve the Cherokee people.”
Before stepping into his CHC role, Gourd retired from the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission, on which he served as the director.
The CNHS will soon begin searching for a new CHC director. Partain said the society, formed in 1963, hopes to secure a candidate “who shares our passion for preserving, promoting and teaching Cherokee history and culture, and who will continue to advance our organization for years to come.”
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said he respects the Cherokee Historical Society and its role in governing the CHC and looks forward to the contributions Gourd will make to the tribe’s education department.
“My administration respects the Cherokee Historical Society's role in governance of the Cherokee Heritage Center,” Hoskin said. “Former CHC Executive Director Dr. Charles Gourd, whose salary has been paid by Cherokee Nation as a service to CHC, has been assigned to new opportunities in our Education Department. We look forward to him continuing his public service to the Cherokee people in a new capacity. In the months ahead, my administration will reevaluate, and find ways to enhance, Cherokee Nation’s indispensable role in helping CHC fulfill its important mission.”
In the meantime, Partain will serve as the interim boss.
“Cherokee culture is thriving and so is the heritage center,” she said. “We remain the premier destination for Cherokee history, culture and the arts through the steadfast dedication of our talented staff, and they’re working diligently to bring new and exciting opportunities to CHC in the new year.”
The CHC, located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive, closed Dec. 31 for routine maintenance and staff development. A new season is slated to begin in February. Visit cherokeeheritage.org