Cherokee Nation makes 1 purchase of land in 2018

Senior Reporter
02/05/2019 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Susan Humphrey, president of the Oaks Indian Mission board, and Russ Hays, an employee and alumnus of the Oaks Indian Mission, pass the original spring house foundation on the mission’s property in Oaks. Plans for a larger chicken farm near the historic site were canceled after locals objected. The Cherokee Nation bought the property in July. MIKE SIMONS/TULSA WORLD
TAHLEQUAH – In a typical year, the Cherokee Nation is often busy with land acquisitions, frequently for use as business and housing assets, but the tribe made only one property purchase in 2018.

The CN bought 60.81 acres near the Oaks Indian Mission in Delaware County, closing on the property July 2. Officials said there are no immediate plans to develop the land, and Principal Chief Bill John Baker said preservation is the tribe’s rationale for buying the acreage, which is in proximity to the residential school and adjacent to the historic God’s Acre Cemetery. The land was acquired from Tran Tran LLC, which wanted to use the space for a poultry operation.

“The tribe believes in protecting sites that are historically significant as well as preserving it for the betterment of our tribal citizens and environment,” Baker said after the purchase. “The Cherokee Nation is also stronger for the future when we add land within the jurisdiction of the tribe to our land base.”

There is a historical association between the tribe and lands along Spring Creek because the area is acknowledged as one of the points of arrival for those who survived the Trail of Tears. There was once a settlement called New Springplace on the creek, about a half mile west of Oaks. It was a Moravian mission and school established in 1842 by Miles Volga, Rev. John Renatus Schmidt, and Herman Ruede. Vogler served as a missionary among the Cherokees in Georgia, and wanted to continue the association after the forced removal. The land was awarded by permission of the Cherokee council and Principal Chief John Ross.

When the Civil War erupted in 1861, the school was shuttered until 1867. The mission was closed again in 1898 when it lost its property due to the land allotments imposed by the Curtis Act. The Moravian Missions asked Rev. N.L. Nielson, a Dutch Lutheran minister in the nearby community of Moodys, to continue mission work at New Springplace. In 1902, Nielson established a school, around which sprung the community of Oaks.

Since 2008, the CN along with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has financially supported efforts by the Moravian Archives in North Carolina to create a book series translating the Moravian diaries. The diaries, written in old German, are believed to be the earliest extensive written accounts of Cherokee life and culture.

Oaks has no municipal zoning ordinances, and Tran Tran LLC was clearing space for a Simmons Foods poultry farm with a capacity of 300,000 chickens when residents realized what was happening. They quickly mobilized with the Spring Creek Coalition, created the Facebook group Spring Creek Guardians, obtained legal counsel and contacted Simmons Foods, which agreed to discontinue construction and put the property on the market.

The CN announced in September that it was joining with Oklahoma to form the Coordinating Council on Poultry Growth. The panel meets regularly to discuss poultry industry growth in Oklahoma and its environmental effects. Co-chairs are CN Secretary of Natural Resources Sara Hill and Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese.

“Much of that is yet to be worked out, but what has been made apparent to me is this is an issue of great urgency,” Hill told the Tulsa World. “People want to see movement. Getting this done in this time frame was pretty remarkable, getting two governments together. We’re moving at light speed and continuing to move forward quickly.”

Hill said the council would include representation from the CN; the state Department of Food, Forestry and Agriculture; the Oklahoma Water Resources Board; the Grand River Dam Authority; and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.
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