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National Park Service Awards $150,000 To Cherokee Nation
by Indian Country Today Staff

Grant to help preserve Cherokee National Capitol; built in 1870

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – More than 139 years after its construction, the Cherokee National Capitol still stands and operates as a symbolic landmark for the Cherokee people. Now, through a unique grant sponsored by the National Park Service, Cherokee Nation has received $150,000 to help preserve the 1870-built Capitol for future generations. The building is Cherokee Nation's only National Historic Landmark.

Awarded by a cooperative municipal program named Save America's Treasures, the federal money will go toward restoring the building's roof and foundation, which have significantly deteriorated due to water infiltration. The funds will also aid in the installation of an appropriate drainage system.

The Cherokee National Capitol preservation project is scheduled to begin in 2010. The building currently houses the judicial branch of the Cherokee Nation and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"The Cherokee National Capitol is a source of great pride for the Cherokee people with its rich history, symbolism and continued functionality within today's tribal government," said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith. "Moving onward with the restoration, we look forward to sharing and educating the public on the historical significance of this building."


The Capitol is one of 41 projects throughout the United States recognized in the National Park Service's Save America's Treasures $9.5 million grant award program for 2009. According to the National Park Service, the funds will assist the organizations and agencies to conserve significant United States cultural and historic treasures, which illustrate, interpret and are associated with the great events, ideas, and individuals that contribute to our nation's history and culture.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis congratulated the recipients of the Save America's Treasures awards saying, "The recipients of these grants deserve great credit for their commitment to the preservation of our nation's history and culture. The historic properties and collections protected by Save America's Treasures grants for the last 10 years benefit all Americans, today and in the future. The National Park Service is proud of our role in administering this exceptional program with our partners."

Since Cherokee Nation reunified its government in Indian Territory in 1839, the grounds on which the Capitol was built have been witness to much history. In 1843, the site played host to one of the most significant tribal gatherings in American history when more than 17 tribes from across the United States came to Tahlequah, Indian Territory, for the International Indian Council to renew ancient customs and strengthen tribal alliances. This historic convention is depicted in John Mix Stanley's painting "International Indian Council," which is displayed at Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Built in 1870, the Cherokee National Capitol was completed shortly after the American Civil War, a period in which the Cherokee Nation overcame turmoil and inter-tribal dissension to reunite and build its government seat. Over the years the building has survived numerous damages including fire. Today, the national landmark stands as a reminder of the progressive government and social system the Cherokee Nation established once it arrived in Indian Territory.

The Cherokee Nation's commitment to preservation features four key projects including the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum and Ross Cemetery, which are currently underway, and the Cherokee National Capitol and Cherokee National Jail, which are scheduled for 2010.

Sikes Abernathie Architects in Tulsa, Okla., completed the assessment of the existing physical condition of the Cherokee National Capitol and provided a prioritized list of projects to be completed in the restoration of the property.
Additional information on the Save America's Treasures program can be found on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities Web site and/or the National Park Service Web site.

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