VIAN, Okla. – Cherokee Nation and its businesses are pledging $120,000 to Dwight Mission for the restoration and preservation of its old schoolhouse that was built nearly 100 years ago.
“We are so grateful for the Cherokee Nation’s generosity, which helps fund the next phase of our development,” said Peter Newbury, executive director of Dwight Mission. “We have had a deep connection with the Cherokee since Dwight began in 1820, and their support will help us live out our mission. This gift will bring to life a historic building that served so faithfully in the past.”
The tribe’s contribution is being matched dollar for dollar by The Walton Family Foundation.
The 1917, three-story building served as the main building on the Dwight campus where missionaries provided education and instruction to Native students. It was historically used as a schoolhouse, but also served as offices and a 200-seat auditorium. The project will preserve the history of the building and Dwight Mission, as well as increase capacity and enhance programs.
The renovated Heritage Center will include state-of-the-art conference rooms, an administrative office suite, interpretive space to preserve and share the unique Dwight Mission story, and the restoration of a 200-seat auditorium.
“The contributions and commitment of Dwight Mission to the Cherokee Nation are significant,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Education and the spiritual health of our children have always been critical components of our tribal values, and for several generations Dwight Mission has played an invaluable role in the lives of Cherokee youth. This is why it is so important to support its preservation and ensure its future for tomorrow.”
A place that once served as the first mission for Native Americans west of the Mississippi River is now home to a camp and conference center, serving more than 3,000 guests each year. Along with traditional summer camps, Dwight Mission hosts families and organizations for reunions, conferences and retreats.
Dwight Mission was established in 1820 near Russellville, Arkansas, and was relocated to its present-day location near Sallisaw, Oklahoma, in 1829. The Indian Mission Training School served students for 119 years, offering practical instruction, academics and religious teaching until it closed in 1948. It reopened in 1951 as a camp and conference center and continues to serve thousands of guests each year. To learn more, please visit www.dwightmission.org