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Historic Victory For Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation reclaim their land in acquiring Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch

By: Haylie Smart | Category: Special Interest | Issue: July 2023

Father-son duo Chuck Hoskin, left and Chuck Hoskin Jr. are eager to accept the commitment of caring for the land, along with the rest of the Cherokee Nation, and using the land to tell their stories of the Cherokee to future generations. "We're given opportunities in life, seldom, to experience something as historical as what we're doing today," former representative of the sixth district Chuck Hoskin said.

Father-son duo Chuck Hoskin, left and Chuck Hoskin Jr. are eager to accept the commitment of caring for the land, along with the rest of the Cherokee Nation, and using the land to tell their stories of the Cherokee to future generations. "We're given opportunities in life, seldom, to experience something as historical as what we're doing today," former representative of the sixth district Chuck Hoskin said.

A historic event took place at the Will Rogers Birthplace in Oologah on June 12, where an impressive turnout celebrated a milestone for the Cherokee Nation during a cool and breezy morning.

What many officials in the Cherokee Nation considered “a long time coming,” the acquisition of the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch was nothing short of inspiring for future Cherokee generations.

“This gives us hope,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “This means the generation coming up can have a deeper understanding of history, and a deeper appreciation for the Cherokee Nation just because of what we’re doing today.”

Telling Their Own Story

Hoskin Jr. believes the Cherokee are on the right track to telling the story of its people. Over centuries, well-meaning, and not so well-meaning, people have told stories of the Cherokee, but the stories have either been obscured, twisted, or outright buried.

Councilor of the Cherokee Nation Keith Austin was one of the most excited about the day’s accomplishment. “I came on the council seven years, ten months, and two days ago, and every single day I’ve been on council this has been a goal–to see this done.”

Councilor of the Cherokee Nation Keith Austin was one of the most excited about the day’s accomplishment. “I came on the council seven years, ten months, and two days ago, and every single day I’ve been on council this has been a goal–to see this done.”

“We live in an era where we have the resources and the dedication to tell our own story,” he said. “And we do it in a lot of ways, and we’ll do that at this wonderful property.”

Though the entire world knows the story of actor and social commentator Will Rogers, and many have visited his birthplace in Oologah, the story of the land where he was born goes much further back.

The Great Cherokee Ranch

“This property is so much more than the Will Rogers story,” Keith Austin said, Councilor of the Cherokee Nation. “This property is about 160 acres. That is a small, small portion of what was overall the Cherokee ranch that became the Rogers family ranch. The Rogers family ranch consisted of 60,000 acres. That would be about two-thirds the size of Rogers County.”
Austin went on to explain that the great Cherokee Ranch was only possible because of Cherokee Common Land, and during the preparation for statehood the Allotment Act reduced that land down to less than 1,000 acres. “It’s the story of the loss of land one more time for the Cherokee people,” he said. “It’s the story of the Cherokee giving up more land for greater society one more time.”

No matter how small the land is in comparison to what it used to be, the Cherokee are proud to take it back and become fully responsible for the upkeep of the land. “I’m proud to be able to go out of office with this being a completed task, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this will change the economy of this area,” Austin said.

If there’s one thing the Cherokee want to be known for it is gadugi, which means working together.

Working Together

In recent years, the Cherokee created a significant goal to reclaim as much of their rightful land as possible to both preserve their heritage and history, and allow the Cherokee people to see and enjoy their land as it was meant to be. This goal would mean working in partnership with the State of Oklahoma, but certain legislation had to be in place first to make it possible for the State to work with the Cherokee in returning the land.

Former representative of the sixth district Chuck Hoskin and Tad Jones, the Director of Will Rogers Memorial Museum, worked tirelessly to make that happen. “We both agreed to work together to try and improve the lives of the people in this area and maintain the property of the land we have here,” Hoskin said.

The first acquired property was Sequoyah’s Cabin in Sallisaw, and now they have another to add to their achievements. “This isn’t an easy thing to do,” Hoskin said. “To have the State work in partnership to make things better. It seems like it would be easy, but it isn’t.”

Victory for the Cherokee

The Rogers family have wanted this victory for the Cherokee for many years and were thrilled to see the day the land be returned to its people. “While change is sometimes frowned upon,” said Jennifer Rogers-Etcheverry, Will Rogers’ great-great granddaughter. “Our family believes this change will introduce new light and offer a fresh perspective that the ranch has so longed for.”


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Cherokee Nation

For more information, contact:

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.

OK


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