TAHLEQUAH, OK --- Cherokee Nation officials have broken ground on the John Ross Museum, formerly Rural School 51, located at 22366 S. 530 Rd, Park Hill, OK 74451.
The ground breaking ceremony was led by Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation Chad Smith, tribal and community leaders, elected officials, and invited guests.
Originally completed in 1913, Rural School 51 served Cherokee and non-Cherokee students. The school facility remained open through the 1950s.
The Rural School 51 restoration project will focus on taking the exterior structure back to its original era of significance. The interior restoration will preserve as much historic fabric as possible, while preparing the structure for an interpretive center that will host the John Ross Museum.
John Ross served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation for more than 38 years and led the tribe through forced removal known as the Trail of Tears. The John Ross Museum will highlight his extraordinary life and accomplishments. Additional exhibits will center on local interests and history of the Park Hill community.
“It is an honor for me to recognize two very important values held by the Cherokee people. That is the importance placed on education and the reverence we hold for our leaders,” said Chief Smith. “And it’s these two concepts - education and leadership - that bring us together to break ground on the restoration of Rural School 51 and adaptation of the facility to host the John Ross Museum.”
Once opened, the John Ross Museum will be the third Cherokee Nation wholly owned and operated museum following the recent dedication of the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum and upcoming opening of the Cherokee National Prison Museum in summer 2011.
An extension of the recently completed Ross Cemetery project, the John Ross Museum and restored Rural School 51 will act as a gateway to Ross Cemetery and serve as a historical site showcasing materials on the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation John Ross and history surrounding the Park Hill community.
The new museum will be a welcome addition to the Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism’s wide array of special events and four historically authentic cultural tours.
About Cherokee Nation
The Cherokee Nation is the sovereign operating government of the Cherokee people. It is a federally recognized tribe of more than 280,000 Cherokee citizens, with its capitol located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Employing more than 6,500 people, Cherokee Nation’s annual economic impact in Oklahoma and surrounding areas is more than $1 billion.