Descendants of Cherokee Seminaries award 2 scholarships

BY KENLEA HENSON
Former Reporter
05/18/2018 08:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Marilyn Tschida, a Cherokee Nation citizen and Descendants of Cherokee Seminaries Students Organization’s 2017-18 scholarship recipient, speaks at the DCSSO’s annual reunion on May 7 at the Branscum Alumni Center in Tahlequah. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Brenda Bradford, head of Special Collections and Archives at Northeastern State University, foreground, helps attendees look for their ancestors in the Cherokee National Female Seminary’s roll book during the Descendants of Cherokee Seminaries Students Organization’s annual reunion on May 7. The roll book contains the names of students who attended the seminary from 1876 to 1906. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Every year on May 7 the Descendants of the Cherokee Seminaries Students Organization hold its annual reunion at Northeastern State University where it awards two NSU students with scholarships. This year’s recipients were Cherokee Nation citizens Bryley Hoodenpyle and Marilyn Tschida.

Both students received a $1,000 scholarship based on their GPAs, activities and interviews.

Hoodenpyle said her fourth great-grandmother’s aunt and two cousins attended the Cherokee Male and Female seminaries, which she discovered through online research and NSU’s archives. She said after college she plans to attend NSU’s optometry school.

“It means a lot to me to receive this scholarship just because this university has given so much to me and has helped me grow personally,” Hoodenpyle said. “NSU has developed me as a student and as a leader so its really awesome to me that my family played a part in that story however many years ago.”

Tschida is an education graduate student and plans to graduate in December. She said she found her grandmother’s name in the Cherokee Female Seminary roll book in NSU’s archives and decided to apply for the scholarship.

“I am really proud to accept it, I think she would be very proud for me to have gotten something on her behalf,” Tschida said.

On May 7, 1889, the Cherokee Female Seminary reopened north of Tahlequah after a fire destroyed it two years earlier. So, no matter what day May 7 falls on, the descendants of students who attended the Cherokee Male and Female seminaries gather to honor their ancestors and their time at the schools.

DCSSO President Rick Ward said the reunion is the oldest tradition on NSU’s campus, accruing annually for 167 years with the exception of one year during World War II.

“It started out as a picnic, but it wasn’t the descendants getting together it was the actual students of the seminaries coming together, bringing food and visiting out in front of the sycamore tree,” he said.

After noticing the number seminary students fading away, Jack Brown established the DCSSO in 1975. Brown served as the executive vice president of the Cherokee Seminaries Students Alumni Association for years. He wanted to get the descendants of the alumni involved in the activities of the association as well as keep the tradition alive. In 1984 the name officially changed to the Descendants of Cherokee Seminaries Students Organization.

The state bought the Female Seminary in 1909, which now serves as Seminary Hall and the centerpiece of NSU.

DCSSO Secretary Ginny Wilson said she wants to keep the reunion tradition alive for her grandmother, who was a student at the Female Seminary.

“I do this for my grandmother. We used to bring her up here to this reunion. It was always the one thing in her life she wanted to do,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the DCSSO follows the same format as their ancestors did during their reunions, which consists of the organization’s meeting, lunch, a speaker, the Cherokee choir and Miss Cherokee.

“We follow that format as close as we can to just do the same thing. It’s gotten a whole lot smaller, but that’s what we do as descendants in memory of those people,” she said.

Since the DCSSO established a scholarship for students who are descendants in the early 2000s, its goal is to continue to provide that scholarship.

“Our biggest plan is to increase our scholarship amount. That’s the most important, but also to keep the (May 7) tradition going at Northeastern. Otherwise it will die,” Wilson said.

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