Community Effort Leads Cherokee Tribe to Buy Trail of Tears Landmark in July

The future of a historic parcel of land appears secure as the Cherokee Nation closed on the purchase of the Delaware County property July 2, 2018, where clearing had already begun for construction of a chicken farm. The 60.81-acre parcel, adjacent to the Oaks Indian Mission at Oaks, was purchased to help preserve and protect the area, which also abuts a historic cemetery known as God’s Acre.

“The tribe believes in protecting sites that are historically significant as well as preserving it for the betterment of our tribal citizens and environment,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said.

Members of the community-based Spring Creek Coalition first raised concerns about potential impacts of the planned poultry operation, which would have housed 300,000 chickens at the headwaters of one of Oklahoma’s most pristine streams [Spring Creek]. The community effort soon intensified as people connected with the Oaks Mission and learned more about the historic significance of the site, a recognized arrival location on the Trail of Tears in the 1830s. According to Wikipedia, the site was on the military road from Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, to St. Louis, Missouri.

Spring Creek Coalition member Emily Oakley spearheaded the effort and created a GoFundMe page to raise money for possible down payment on the land if a single buyer had not come forward. The page notes that if a buyer did come forward, the money would go to the nonprofit coalition for preservation efforts. The page was closed this week with just over $9,100 raised.

“It’s super, unbelievably exciting that this worked out the way it did,” Oakley said. “I am grateful that (the Cherokee Nation) got it, incredibly appreciative and relieved. I’m sure whatever they decide to do with it, it will be the perfect thing for that property.”

During the Cherokees’ forced relocation in the 1830s, the Moravian missionaries established a new mission in eastern Oklahoma. Remnants of the Spring House still stand near the present-day Oaks Mission at the headwaters of Spring Creek.

The nearby God’s Acre cemetery contains grave sites, many unmarked, of the early Moravian missionaries as well as Cherokees who endured the forced relocation.

[The history of the site near the Oaks Mission begins with Moravians, a pietistic German sect who settled in North Carolina in the mid-1700s. They were the first to enter Christian missionary work with the Cherokees. Since 2008 the Cherokee Nation has been supporting work in the Moravian Archives in North Carolina for creation of a book translating Moravian diaries, hand-written in old German, that are said to be the earliest and longest-running written account of daily life among the Cherokees.]

***YAHOKE, ikana! Thank you, friends. Much GRATITUDE for spending time on a Choctaw Journey with me.***

Source: An article published in Tulsa World on July 11, 2018. For the full article by staff writer Kelly Bostian, see the Tulsa World website HERE.

Photo: Foundations of the original spring house at Oak Mission.

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