Cherokee history, culture scholar dies
Dr. Duane King, the former director of the Helmerich Center of American Research at the Gilcrease Museum, center, gives Cherokee Nation citizens a tour of the museum’s archives in 2014. King was recognized as an authority on Native American history and culture, especially Cherokee history and culture. He died on Sept. 17 at the age of 70. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee historian Dr. Duane King shares Trail of Tears history before the unveiling of two interpretive markers about the forced removal of Cherokees in April 2014 at a cemetery near Westville, Oklahoma. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TULSA, Okla. – Dr. Duane King, a former Cherokee Heritage Center executive director, died at age 70 on Sept. 17 following a lengthy illness.
King was a former Gilcrease Museum director and was recognized as a Native American history and culture authority, especially Cherokee history and culture.
“Duane spent his life researching and writing about Cherokee history. His books, articles and research notes are invaluable. The legacy that he has left the Cherokee people will endure for generations to come. We owe him a great debt of gratitude,” Jack Baker, National Trail of Tears Association president and former Tribal Councilor, said.
King had been serving as director of the Helmerich Center of American Research at the Gilcrease Museum since 2014 and oversaw the center’s construction.
During his six years as Gilcrease Museum executive director, he also served as Tulsa University’s vice president of museum affairs. After joining Gilcrease in 2008, King helped lead the transition of museum management from the City of Tulsa to TU.
He was also the founding editor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and once directed museums in Oregon, North Carolina, Los Angeles and New York City.
At the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina, King compiled and edited the Journal of Cherokee Studies, which included cultural stories and information and history from Cherokee people in the eastern homelands.
“Dr. King was one of the most learned and respected scholars of Cherokee history and culture of our era,” TOTA Executive Director Troy Poteete said. “Cherokees east and west have lost a dear friend and loyal ally who quietly guided the creation of our museums and the recognition of the Trial of Tears as a National Historic Trail, as well as doing extensive research and voluminous writing. His contributions are so vast it will require another scholar to enumerate them.”
He was also among the advisers behind the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum for the American Indian in Washington, D.C., which opened in 2004.
King was a graduate of the University of Tennessee. He also held a master’s degree and a doctorate, which focused on researching the Cherokee language, from the University of Georgia.
“Duane was a board member of the Trail of Tears Association for the entirety of my 12-year career there. He was such a gentle, kind person with no air of superiority even though he was one of the premier scholars on Cherokee removal. He almost always knew more than anyone in the room about the topic of removal, but he was always very humble when speaking about it,” said CN citizen Jerra Quinton. “I didn’t know he was ill until I heard he had passed. I am profoundly sad and am among so many friends and colleagues who will miss him deeply.”
King served as CHC executive director from 1982-87. In 2013, at the annual Sevenstar Gala, the Cherokee National Historical Society honored King with the Stalwart Award for outstanding service to the CHC.
“Everything about Duane was good. His sincere interest in Cherokee culture and people guided his career and his life, and I think he truly valued everyone he met. He was my friend, and I will miss him,” CHC Education Director Tonia Hogner-Weavel said.