CHC archivist retires after 38 years
PARK HILL, Okla. – In his 38 years of working at the Cherokee Heritage Center, Tom Mooney worked on numerous projects and held various titles, but he retired on Dec. 5 as the center’s archivist.
He began his CHC career as its historical registrar in 1976, the same year the Cherokee people ratified a new tribal constitution and 10 years after work began on the center.
“I’ve enjoyed every year here. A lot of my life has been spent here. When you spend that much time some place you make a lot of friends. I’ve been very pleased all the years I’ve been out here,” Mooney said.
He assisted people with genealogy until 2000, when he began overseeing the center’s massive archive. The archive includes books, newspapers, photographs, Cherokee Nation records from 1948-75 and donated papers from former Principal Chief William Keeler and many other former leaders and CN citizens.
“When I started here there was file cabinet and that was basically the archives,” he said. “It’s just been the past few years that we’ve really gotten things squared away in our collections.”
After helping with genealogy, he said he was glad to be able to concentrate on the archives, which now make up two rooms in the museum’s basement.
The 66-year-old said his favorite document in the archives is a letter written by Ellen Whitmore, the first principal of the Cherokee Female Seminary, which opened in 1851. The CHC nearly sits where the seminary once did. The seminary burned down in 1887, and the center has as its centerpiece the three remaining brick columns of the seminary.
“She’s writing her family. She’s been offered a job out here. She’s in Massachusetts, and she’s having to make this decision about whether to come out to Cherokee Nation or not,” Mooney said of Whitmore’s letter. “Today, it’s a big challenge for a girl to come from Massachusetts to Oklahoma to take a job. Back then it must have been horrendous.”
The perils of traveling to Indian Territory by boat in 1850 down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River through Memphis and then through Arkansas on the Arkansas River and into Indian Territory and Tahlequah, where Principal Chief John Ross greeted her, tested her will. However, Mooney said she enjoyed her time leading the seminary.
Documents such as Whitmore’s letter and others are being scanned and made into digital files so they can be accessed easier without damaging the original document.
Mooney said before documents were scanned it was up to him “to remember where some box was” to access certain documents.
When you spend that much time some place you make a lot of friends.
Tom Mooney, Cherokee Heritage Center archivist
In 2011, Mooney became a certified archivist through the Academy of Certified Archivists. He said at the time he took the certification test as a method of self-evaluation to see if he could pass the ACA test.
CHC Executive Director Center Candessa Tehee said Mooney has been more than the center’s archivist.
“He’s really been the backbone of the institution. He has so much institutional knowledge,” she said. “Tom built the archives. He started with basically nothing, and now we’ve got thousands of documents, and he has dealt with so many challenges...it’s really amazing what he has been able to do with so little.”
One challenge was dealing with flooding in the basement during heavy rains. Tehee said Mooney told her during those times he would sleep on a cot with his arm above his head and his hand touching the floor so when the water came into the basement and touched his hand he would know to get up and vacuum it before it reached the archives.
“Tom has such a passion for the institution. He has such a passion for Cherokee history, Cherokee heritage, Cherokee culture that he has made innumerable personal sacrifices to be here as archivist to continue to safeguard this collection,” Tehee said.
Mooney retired a day before his 38th anniversary, which fell on Dec. 6. On Dec. 5, Mooney’s coworkers gathered in the CHC’s museum atrium to honor him for his dedication to the archives and for being a friend. He was presented with an “Unbroken Friendship Mat” made from river cane and woven by Cherokee artist and coworker Betty Frogg. Under the mat, which was enclosed in glass and a frame, read: “Thank you for 38 years of your ‘Unbroken Friendship.’”
His wife, daughter and grandchildren also attended the honoring ceremony. Mooney met his wife Robin when they both worked at the CHC.
He said he would miss the people he worked with the most, but he would, of course, also miss the “old documents” with which he has become familiar.
“It’s been a great place. I’ve enjoyed the ride,” he said.
ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ. – ᎾᏍᎩ ᏦᏍᎪ ᏧᏁᎳ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏏ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅ ᎠᏰᏟ, Tom Mooney ᏚᎸᏫᎡᏓᏏ ᎢᎸᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏓᎴ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎵ ᎠᎴ ᎢᎸᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏓᎴ ᏯᏛᏁᎯ ᏚᏓᏃᏣᏝᏂ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎤᏑᎵᎪᏨ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᎥᏍᎩᏱ ᎯᏍᎩᏁ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏪᏘ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᏓᏍᏆᏂᎪᏛ ᏧᎦᏎᏍᏗ.
ᎤᎴᏅᎲ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᎾᏍᎩ CHC ᏄᏛᏁᎸ ᎾᎿ ᏂᏧᎵᏔᏅᏍᏔᏅ ᏗᎪᏪᎵᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ ᏐᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᎦᎵᏆᏍᎪ ᏑᏓᎵ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎤᏂᏍᏓᏱᏛ ᎢᏤ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯᏍᏛ ᎦᎫᏍᏛᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏍᎪᎯ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎣᏂ ᎤᎾᎴᏅᎲ ᏚᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎯᎠ ᎠᏰᏟ.
“ᎦᎵᎡᎵᎬ ᏂᏓᏕᏘᏴᎯᏒ ᏓᎩᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲᎢ. ᎤᎪᏓ ᎾᎿ ᎦᎴᏂᏙᎲ ᎠᎭᏂ ᎨᏙᎲᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᏄᏍᏛ ᎢᎦ ᏰᏙᎭ ᎢᎸᏍᏢ ᎤᏂᎪᏓ ᏗᏣᎵ ᎠᏁᎮᏍᏗ. ᎦᎵᎡᎵᎬ ᎾᎪᎯᎸ ᎠᏇᏙᎸ ᏧᏕᏘᏱᎶᏓ ᎠᎭᏂ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Mooney.
ᎤᏂᎪᏓ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᏚᏍᏕᎸᎭ ᎾᎿ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅ ᎤᏂᏲᎯ ᎾᎿ ᏔᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ, ᏧᎴᏅᎲ ᎤᎦᏎᏍᏛ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏰᏟ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏚᏂᎾᎥᎢ. ᎯᎠ ᎤᏂᎿᎥ ᎤᏠᏯᏍᏛ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ, ᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᎦᎴᏴᏔᏅ, ᏗᏓᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅ, ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎤᎬᏩᏟ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᏕᎦᏅ ᏂᏓᏳᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᏐᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏅᎩᏍᎪ ᏧᏁᎳ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ ᎠᎴᏂᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏈᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᎦᎵᏆᏍᎪ ᎯᏍᎩ ᎢᏯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏧᎾᎵᏍᎪᎸᏔᏅ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᏂᏙᏓᏳᎶᏒᎤᎬᏫᏳᎯ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏔᏅ William Keeler ᏧᎵᏍᎪᎸᏔᏅᎯ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎪᏓ ᏗᏐᎢ ᏗᎾᏓᏘᏂᏙᎯ ᎢᏳᎾᎵᏍᏔᏅ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎠᏁᎳ ᏧᎾᎵᏍᎪᎸᏔᏅ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ.
“ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᏆᎴᏅᎲ ᏓᎩᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᎾᎿ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᎦᎸᏙᏗ ᎦᏍᎩᎸ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᏕᎦᎸᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ. “ᎢᎸᏍᎩᏊ ᎾᏕᏘᏯ ᎾᏍᎩ Ꮩ ᏚᏳᎪᏛ ᎢᏗᎬᏗ ᎨᏒ ᏂᏙᎬᏁᎸ ᎯᎠ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎠᎿᎥᎢ.”
ᎣᏂᏃ ᎤᏩᎪᏛ ᏥᎦᏥᏍᏕᎸᎲ ᎾᎿ ᏂᏓᏳᎾᏓᎴᏅ ᎤᏂᏲᎯ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᎵᎮᎵᎬ ᏃᏊ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᏕᎦᏅ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏂᏕᎬᏁᎲ ᎠᎴ ᏃᏊ ᏥᎩ ᏔᎵ ᏕᎧᏅᏑᎵ ᎾᎿ ᏕᎦᏂ museum ᎭᏫᎾ.
ᎾᎿ ᏑᏓᎵᏍᎪ ᏑᏓᎵ ᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᏭᎸᏉᏛ ᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᎪᎯᎦ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ Ellen Whitmore ᏧᏙᎩᏓ, ᎢᎬᏱ ᏄᎬᏫᏳᏒ ᎨᏎ ᎾᎿ ᏧᏛᎾ ᎠᏂᎨᏳᏦ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᎵᏍᏚᎢᏒ ᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᏧᏈ ᎯᎦᏍᎪ ᏌᏊ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩ CHC ᏙᎯᏳ ᎾᎥ ᎠᏓᏁᎵ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏂᎨᏳᏣ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎤᎪᏅ ᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏁᎳᏍᎪ ᎦᎵᏉᎩ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ, ᎠᎴ ᎠᏰᏟ ᎤᏂᎭ ᎠᏱᏟ ᎾᎿ ᏦᎢ ᏗᎬᏓᏅ ᏗᎪᏢᏔᏅ ᏗᎨᏔ ᎾᎿ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅ.
“ᎾᏍᎩ ᏕᎪᏪᎳᏁᎮ ᏧᏓᏁᎸ. ᎾᎿ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎠᏥᏚᏍᏓᏁᎴ. ᎾᎿ Massachusetts ᎡᏙᎮ, ᎠᎴ ᎠᏓᏅᏖᏍᎨ ᎾᎿ ᏱᏓᎦᎷᏥ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎠᎴ Ꮭ,” Mooney ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᎪᎵᏱᏓ ᎪᏪᎵ. “ᎪᎯᎢᎦ. ᏥᎦ ᎤᎪᏓ ᎠᏓᏅᏖᎸᏓ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎨᏳᏣ ᏂᏓᏳᏂᎩᏓ Massachusetts ᎠᎴ ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ ᎤᎷᎯᏍᏗ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗᎢ. ᎾᎯᏳ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎤᏦᏎᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎡᏓᏍᏗᎢ.
ᎾᎿ ᎤᏦᏎᏗ ᎡᏓᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯᏛ ᎾᎿ ᏥᏳ ᎠᎹᏯ ᎡᏙᎯ ᎬᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᎯᎦᏍᎪ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ ᎾᎿ Ohio ᎤᏪᏴ ᏫᎦᎷᎩ Mississippi ᎤᏪᏴ ᏫᎦᎶᏍᎩ Memphis ᎠᎴ ᏭᎦᏛᎴᎯᏍᏗ Arkansas ᎾᎿ Arkansas ᎤᏪᏴ ᎠᎴ ᏃᏊ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎾᎿ ᎤᎬᏫᏳᎯ John Ross ᏚᏠᏎ, ᎠᏥᎪᎵᏱᏗ ᎤᏟᏂᎬᎬ. ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ, Mooney ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᎵᎮᎵᎬ ᎤᎷᏣ ᎠᎵᎮᎵᎬ ᏗᏓᏘᏂᏙ ᎨᏒ ᎾᎿ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ.
ᏧᏪᏘ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᏯᏛᎾ Whitmore’s ᎤᏬᏪᎳᏅ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏐᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏓᎾᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏃᏢᏍᎪ ᎠᏍᏆᏂᎪᏗᏍᎩ ᏕᎦᎶ ᎠᎯᏗᎨ ᏗᎪᎵᏱᏗ ᏝᏃ ᏱᏛᎬᏲᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏗᎬᏁᎸ ᎪᏪᎵ ᎨᏒ ᏓᏍᏆᏂᎪᏙᎢ.
Mooney ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Ꮟ ᏂᏓᎾᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎬ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎤᏟᎢᎶᎮᎲ “ᎤᏅᏓᏗᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎧᏁᏌᎢᏕᎦᎸᎢ” ᎾᎿ ᏚᏲᎲ ᎢᏧᏍᏗ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ.
ᏔᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏌᏚ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ, Mooney ᎪᏪᎵ ᎤᎾᎢ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅ ᎠᎴ ᎨᎳ Academy of Certified Archivists. ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᎩᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎢᏯᏛᏗ ᎤᎦᏛᎲᏍᎬ ᎬᏩᎶᎯᏍᏗ ᏱᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ACA ᎤᎾᏓᎪᎵᏱᏗ.
CHC ᏄᎬᏫᏳᏒ Candessa Tehee ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ Mooney ᎤᎪᏛ ᎾᏛᏁᎲ ᎾᏃ archivist ᎨᏒᎢ.
“ᏙᎯᏳᏃ ᎦᏖᏍᎨ ᎨᏒ ᎤᏙᏢᏒ. ᎢᎦ ᎤᏅᏔᏂ ᎨᏒ ᏂᎦᎥ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅ ᎠᎭᏂ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ.
Tom ᎤᏬᏢᏅ Ꮎ archives. ᎤᎴᏅᎲ ᎱᏩᏭ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏄᎲᎾ, ᎠᎴ ᏃᏊ ᎠᎦᏴᎵ ᎤᎶᏒᏍᏗ ᏓᏍᏆᏂᎪᏓ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᎪᏓ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎡᏍᎦ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᎾ ᎠᏎᏃ ᎤᏟᏂᎬᏁᎸ…… ᎤᏍᏆᏂᏓ ᎢᎦ ᏄᏛᏁᎳ ᎢᎦ ᎤᏍᏗ ᎤᎴᏅᏙᏗ ᎤᎲᎢ.”
ᏌᏊ ᎢᏳᏓᎴ ᎡᏍᎦ ᎨᏒ ᎤᎪᏓ ᏳᎦᎾᎾ ᎦᏃᎱᎩᏍᎬ ᎾᎿᏂ. Tehee ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Mooney ᎤᏃᎯᏎᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᏄᎵᏍᏔᏂ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏒᎯᎮ ᎾᎿ ᏧᏬᏰᏂ ᏓᏒᏂᎮ ᎠᏲᏓᏝᎲ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎹ ᏳᏒᏂᏍᏔᏂ ᎤᏅᏛ ᎤᏩᏃᏌᏍᏗ Ꮟ ᏫᏄᎷᏨᎾ ᏧᏍᏆᏂᎪᏛ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏙᏗᎦᏅᎢ.
Tom ᎢᎦ ᎤᎸᏉᏓ ᎨᏒ ᎾᎿ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲᎢ. ᎤᎸᏉᏓ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏂᏧᎵᏍᏔᏅᏍᏔᏅ, ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅᎢ, ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏄᎾᏛᏁᎵᏙᎸ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎤᏁᎳᎩ ᎤᏪᎵᏌ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎭᏂ ᎤᎨᏳᏒ ᎠᎪᏩᏘᏍᎬ ᎠᏍᏆᏂᎪᏗᏍᎬ ᎯᎠ ᎤᏪ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎠᏍᏆᏂᎪᏛ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Tehee.
Mooney ᏙᎢ ᏄᏛᏁᎸ ᏏᎦ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏦᏍᎪ ᏧᏁᎳ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏂᎦᏁᎴᎢ, ᎾᎿ ᎥᏍᎩᏱ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎥᏍᎩᏱ ᏑᏓᎵᏁᎢ. Mooney ᏧᎵᎢ ᎤᎾᏓᏟᏌᏅ CHC’S ᎠᏍᏆᏂᎪᏔᏅᎲᏍᏗ ᎠᎾᎵᎮᎵᏤᎲ ᏍᏓᏯ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎸ ᎠᎴ ᏧᎵᎢ. ᎠᏥᏁᎸ ᎾᏍᎩ “ᎠᏲᎩ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᏧᎵᎢ ᎨᏒ ᎤᏍᏗ ᎠᏱᏍᏛᏓ” ᎢᎯᏯ ᎪᏢᏔᏅ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏩᏅᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎪᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ Betty Frogg. ᎭᏫᎾᏗᏢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎸᏌᏗ ᎪᏢᏔᏅ ᎦᎸᏛ ᎠᎴ ᎪᏪᎸ: ᏩᏙ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏦᏍᎪᎯ ᏧᏁᎳ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎾᎿ ‘ᎤᏲᏨ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᏗᎦᎵᎢ.”
ᎤᏓᎵᎢ, ᎤᏪᏣ ᎠᎨᏯ ᎠᎴ ᏧᎵᏏ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎠᏁᏙᎲᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎦᎵᎡᎵᏍᏗᏍᎬᎢ. Mooney ᎠᎴ ᎤᏓᎵᎢ Robin ᏓᎾᏓᏩᏛᎲ ᎠᎭᏂ ᎾᏍᎩ CHC.
ᎤᏛᏅ ᏙᏛᏠᏥ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎢᏧᎳᎭ ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎸᎢ ᎤᎪᏛᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎾᏍᏊ “ᏧᏪᏘ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅᎢ” ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏗᎪᎵᎦ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᎢ.
ᎢᎦ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᎭᏂ. ᎦᎵᎡᎵᎦ ᎠᏆᏣᏅᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ.