Tahlequah Daily Press

January 8, 2013

Symbol of sovereignty

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — By this time next year, the Cherokee Nation Capitol building will be restored to its 1869 state, complete with the cupola on top.

Tribal officials on Monday announced plans for the project, the third restoration within a three-block area in downtown Tahlequah to occur in recent years.

“Many great decisions have been made in this building,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “And many more are still being decided. As principal chief and tribal councilors, we take an oath to preserve our education, history and culture. If we have one symbol of our sovereignty, this is it.”

The capitol, which now houses the judicial branch of the tribe, was built in 1869 and occupied by all three branches of government prior to statehood. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also designated a National Landmark.

Baker said project directors plan to preserve as many pieces of the original building as possible, only replicating those beyond repair.

“Now, it’s nothing to visit a 600-year-old building in Europe,” said Baker. “But a 140-year-old building is a big deal in Cherokee country. It’s my hope, in 500 years, Cherokees can stand in this building and appreciate their history and culture.”

Work is scheduled to be completed by this summer. The project will preserve the  historic building’s existing materials and restore the historic character of the building.

Plans include roof repairs with new decking and historic-era shingles, restoration of soffits and fascia, a new gutter system, and the cupola.

The project also calls for adding new doors and windows, a new back porch and exterior waterproofing for the building’s foundation.

“When Cultural Tourism came and said we had the money to do this, I asked we put it back with the cupola on top,” said Baker. “They assured me this would be possible.”

Officials attending the ceremony included Tribal Councilors Joe Byrd and Lee Keener, and CN Supreme Court Justices Darrell Dowty, Angela Jones, James Wilcoxen, John Garrett and Troy Poteet.

The preservation of the Cherokee National has been financed in part with federal funds from the Save America’s Treasures program, which is administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior.

Other CN Tourism restoration projects include the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Museum and the Cherokee National Prison.