Condensed by Native Village
Oklahoma: A project to restore the historic Cherokee Nation Capitol Building is underway in downtown Tahlequah. The project will preserve the building’s existing materials and restore its character.
“This project is an important step in preserving an important part of our history,” said Principal Chief, Bill John Baker. “This restoration will see that the original Cherokee National Capitol building stands for years to come, serving as a reminder of the early era of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory.”
The Capitol building, which serves as the Cherokee Nation's courthouse, has been a tribal centerpiece for more than 140 years. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a National Historic Landmark.
“If we have one symbol of sovereignty, this is it. It’s one of the few courthouses left in America where we can display the nativity scene, and we haven’t yet, but it’s one of the few courthouses where we can display the 10 Commandments. It is Cherokee,” Baker said.
The Capitol building was constructed from 1867 to 1869 and was occupied by the Nation’s executive, legislative and judicial branches. It served as the tribe’s Capitol until 1907, when Oklahoma achieved statehood.
“We’re going to preserve every piece that is original to the building. Only the pieces that are beyond repair will be replicated,” Baker said. “I’m hoping with this restoration, this work we commence today, that 500 years from now Cherokees will be in this very building remembering...after the Trail of Tears, after the removal, our ancestors held their heads high and rebuilt the Cherokee Nation.”
The first restoration phase includes roof repairs, restoration of soffits and fascia, a new gutter system and an 1880's style cupola. The project also calls for new doors, windows, a new back porch and exterior waterproofing for the building’s foundation.
The restoration is estimated to cost $500,000. A $150,000 grant from the National Park Service’s “Save America’s Treasures” program will help with the expenses.