NSU’s Seminary Hall: A Symbol of Cherokee Nation’s Commitment to Education

NSU President Steve Turner presents Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker with Seminary Hall blueprints from NSU Archives, after the Nation gifted the university $4 million to preserve said historic building.

NSU President Steve Turner presents Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker with Seminary Hall blueprints from NSU Archives, after the Nation gifted the university $4 million to preserve said historic building.

Guest Commentary

Published December 7, 2015

Cherokee Nation, the city of Tahlequah and Northeastern State University have an inseparable history. I am proud that our future will be just as intertwined. There is simply no way NSU and, specifically, Seminary Hall could ever be separated from the Cherokee Nation.

I am honored to announce a record financial gift to NSU that ensures a vital part of Cherokee Nation’s heritage and history will be preserved and celebrated for generations to come. Cherokee Nation, through our business arm, has committed $4 million to NSU. This contribution falls under our cultural preservation umbrella. We will give the NSU capital campaign a million dollars per year over the next four years to preserve Seminary Hall, our iconic symbol of education.

Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and I, along with the majority of our Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, graduated from Northeastern State University. Thousands and thousands of Cherokees have come through Seminary Hall since the day it was built, and today more Cherokees are graduating from this university than any other school in the world.

When the Tribal Council and Deputy Chief and I were sworn into office, we took a solemn oath to defend the culture, heritage and history of the Cherokee Nation. I can’t think of a preservation project more worthy than Seminary Hall.

Seminary Hall is a powerful unifier of the school, the community and the Cherokee Nation. It reminds all of us every single day that our partnerships are deeply rooted in advancing quality education.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Principal Chief Bill John Baker

I travel all over the country speaking to Cherokee Nation community groups, and I almost always  mention Seminary Hall, the vision of our ancestors and the importance they placed on education. When our Cherokee leaders where first removed to this part of the country, they made a moral decision to invest in the future of our people through education. Despite the trauma of removal and starting over, the tribe allocated half of its overall budget to erect the seminary school and fund its mission.

Seminary Hall is a testament to their dedication. It was the first institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi River for any woman of any race. Today, it is the oldest building on the beautiful modern campus, and every student who attends NSU will have at least one class in Seminary Hall during their academic experience. However, it lacks the modern technology needed for today’s competitive higher education learning environment.

At Cherokee Nation, we are proud to help refurbish the outside of the building and redesign and repurpose the inside of Seminary Hall. We look forward to seeing the glorious structure in its new chapter, part of which will be a museum dedicated to the Cherokee Nation. Making this investment for future generations is how we honor the vision of our Cherokee ancestors.

Wado.

Bill John Baker is principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

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