Today, I want to speak with you about the relationship between the Cherokee Nation and educational institutions like Northeastern State University. This relationship is often mentioned in letters and diaries, and I’ve found some fascinating insights from an article by historian Dr. Tal Ballinger. He was one of the early historians who wrote extensively about the Cherokee Nation and its council fires. The information I’ll share today is drawn from his research on the similarities and exchanges between the teachers and the students of these institutions.

Dr. Ballinger mentioned that his information came from a variety of sources, including personal interviews, college catalogs, and the daughter of an officer, Major Oliver, who was the president of the college and also an officer.

This institution, where the teachers who taught at Northeastern State University and other places would impress the Cherokee females, was pivotal. We had a Princeton graduate, making our Chief Ross, who looked at the natives and envisioned a future for them. The tribal government sent individuals back to schools in the east to study curriculums and recruit educators. Their goal was to create a girls’ finishing school, giving young Cherokee ladies a solid educational background and social graces to confidently engage in diplomatic initiatives.

The tribal government looked at various schools, and the curriculum they chose was modeled after institutions like Mount Holyoke and others. For instance, when women got married in those days, they were often called back to the school they attended to teach. These were some of the earliest teachers who contributed to institutions like Northeastern State University.

One notable figure was Elijah Hicks, a Cherokee missionary before moving to the Presbyterian people. He reported well on their progress. His influence extended to the Oklahoma Legislature, where he played a significant role. Described as rich, regal, and remorseless, Hicks championed the literacy of the Cherokee Nation and fought for statehood, representing the district that now bears his name.

The curriculum was rigorous, emphasizing both academic knowledge and social virtues. For example, the music teacher in 1997 was known to encourage students to express themselves musically. The president of the college, Major Oliver, contributed significantly to the development of these educational programs.

Another significant figure was Miss Rutherford, principal at the Cherokee Female Seminary. President Oliver, when the Civil War broke out, served as an officer. Miss Samantha Rutherford, an instructress of painting at the time, was engaged to a soldier who was killed in the war. She became a driving force in the education system, emphasizing a blend of cultural and academic excellence.

These schools aimed to prepare Cherokee individuals to live in a rapidly changing world. The institutions were seen as a means to preserve the body politic of the Cherokee Nation. Although this might seem contradictory to our current efforts to preserve our culture, at the time, it was seen as essential.

One intriguing story is about Sam Starr and his bride Belle Starr, who were known for their ability to navigate the complexities of Cherokee and American law. Although I couldn’t find a picture of Sam, I found an image of Tom Starr, his relative. Tom Starr’s children attended these schools, and despite the turmoil of the Civil War, the Starr family remained influential.

Tom Starr, a prominent figure, was exiled from the Cherokee Nation due to his involvement with the treaty party. After the Civil War, his family moved and his children attended school. This period was marked by associations with various people, including outlaws, but also significant contributions to education and the preservation of Cherokee heritage.

In summary, the connection between educational institutions and the Cherokee Nation is profound. Many individuals who attended these schools went on to teach and contribute significantly to both the Cherokee and broader American society. This relationship is a fascinating subject, and I hope I’ve shed some light on it today. Thank you.

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