Tribe’s Historic Registry Act proposed at remaining tribal courthouse
During a Nov. 26 ceremony at the historic Saline Courthouse near Rose, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. speaks about the importance of preserving Cherokee historic sites. Hoskin also announced new legislation to protect properties of historical significance to the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Nation Historic Registry Act will go before the council in December. It calls for the tribe’s Natural Resources office to maintain a database of historical places for protection and preservation. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Saline District Courthouse built in 1884 is the last remaining district courthouse of nine built by the Cherokee Nation in the 1880s. After the passage of the Curtis Act of 1898 by the U.S. Congress, the courthouse was forced to close along with the disbanding of the CN judicial system. The tribe received ownership of the building from Oklahoma in the 1980s. The courthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Cherokee Nation also restored a springhouse adjacent to the Saline Courthouse with it restored the interior and exterior of the courthouse. A cold spring bubbles up from the ground inside the stone structure, and it was used as a place to keep food cold before refrigeration. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Dist.14 Tribal Councilor Keith Austin, speaking at the Saline Courthouse on Nov. 26, is sponsoring the Cherokee Nation Historic Registry Act, which will go before the Tribal Council in December. It calls for the tribe’s Natural Resources office to maintain a database of historical places for protection and preservation. The tribe has identified a preliminary list of 78 locations within the Cherokee Nation. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
ROSE - Inside the restored Saline District courthouse in Delaware County, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced the Cherokee Nation Historic Registry Act, a piece of legislation that provides a comprehensive framework to protect properties of historical significance to the tribe.
CN officials have identified a preliminary list of 78 sites within the tribe’s jurisdiction, many not listed on the national registry.
“We have a long standing commitment to preserve and protect our Cherokee historic and sacred sites and we don’t just talk about it, we have put in a great deal of resources into it. Just in the past five years between Cherokee Nation Businesses and the Cherokee Nation we have put in over $14 million into preserving sites,” Hoskin said.
The Saline District courthouse is one of the sites the CN is committed to preserving as it is the last remaining district courthouse built in Indian Territory in 1884. It has undergone recent restoration from CNB with freshly painted walls, a new lighting system, a fire suppression system, a new parking area and walkway and other modern conveniences.
“We’re still working on the development to open as a museum in 2020. It will feature rotating exhibits and some cultural programming. There will be an art aspect as well as just regular rotating exhibits featuring the history of the courthouse and the community history,” said Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism director Travis Owens.
When the courthouse was active in the 1880s, it saw several court proceedings before all tribal court procedures were halted in 1898 by the Dawes Commission, according to research by historians Dan Littlefield and Fuller Bumpers.
“The records show this was a courthouse. This property also had general stores, a blacksmith shop and so forth. In 1976 the United States recognized this as an important place by giving it the National Register of Historic Places designation. And we acquired the property again in 1988, and since then we have slowly reclaimed the glory of this property. It's been a slow process of time, and we finally got the fire lit and it's done and it looks phenomenal,” District 14 Tribal Councilor Keith Austin said.
The legislation calls for the CN’s Natural Resources office to maintain a database of historical places for protection and preservation. The act also makes is a crime to deface tribal historic sites listed on the registry and incorporates a permit system for excavation and manipulation of cultural resources on historic sites, according to a CN press release.
“The truth of the matter is we are in a race against time when it comes to protecting historic sites. But it's a race that we have to engage in for the sake of our ancestors who did all of this and left us this, left this legacy. We have to do it for the sake of Cherokees today who need to know more about their culture, their history and where they came from. We need to do this,” Hoskin said.
The Cherokee Nation Historic Registry Act is sponsored by Austin and will go before the Tribal Council in December for approval.