Cherokee Nation, Gilcrease Museum partnering for Cherokee exhibition

Cherokee Exhibition
TU President Steadman Upham and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Cherokee Nation officials announced a partnership with Gilcrease Museum on Thursday to create a special Cherokee exhibition that will display an estimated 100 items from Cherokee history. It is slated to open in 2017.

To kick off the collaboration, Cherokee Nation officials contributed $100,000 to help fund the temporary exhibit.

“The Gilcrease Museum has proven time and time again to be a great partner to the Cherokee Nation, and together we are creating an exhibit that showcases some of the most significant documents and artifacts in the rich history of our people,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “For Cherokee citizens, few things are more important than preserving who we are as a tribe. The Gilcrease understands that and is working diligently with the Cherokee Nation to create a narrative that is authentic, accurate and appropriate.”

The exhibition, Emergence of Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory, will share the story of Cherokees leading up to forced removal, also known as the Trail of Tears, and after the tribe settled in Tahlequah and began to form a new government.

“Gilcrease Museum is uniquely positioned to produce this exhibition. The time span of the exhibition illustrates not only an important time in the history of the Cherokee people, but also an important moment in what would become the state of Oklahoma,” said Susan Neal, interim chief operating officer of Gilcrease Museum. “We appreciate the commitment from Chief Baker to put the resources in place to promote understanding of the traditions of the Cherokee people, and we value our ongoing partnership with the Cherokee Nation.”

Most of the items will come from the Gilcrease collection, but museum officials plan to showcase significant Cherokee items from other museums as well.

Among the items that are slated to be on display will be portraits of famous Cherokee leaders, and other art and artifacts reflecting the emergence of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory.

Museum officials will work closely with Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism in the development of the exhibition.

Much of the focus of Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism’s work during the last six years has been on this time period in Cherokee history. Its efforts in preservation and cultural tourism in northeast Oklahoma have resulted in the tribe’s heritage and history being sustained for future generations.

In November, Cherokee Nation officials contributed a large gift for the preservation of a collection of more than 2,000 pages handwritten by John Ross, who served as Cherokee Nation Principal Chief leading up to forced removal and until his death in 1866.

“Gilcrease Museum and its collection of Cherokee material in our archives includes 11 lineal feet of John Ross papers that provide an invaluable resource for studying Cherokee history during a pivotal time in the tribe’s history and during the 19th century,” said Duane H. King, Ph.D., director of the museum’s Helmerich Center for American Research.

The project complements an ongoing partnership between Cherokee Nation translators and Gilcrease Museum to translate Cherokee documents to English for the first time ever.