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Finding a Place to Call Home

November 20, 2002

Almanac Transcript

Finding a place to call home this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, I’m Steven Knoche Kite.

Of all of the tribes forced to settle in what is now Oklahoma perhaps none had such stringent rules and regulations concerning the care of orphans as did the Cherokees. The first known Cherokee law regarding orphans passed in a tribal council in 1814 and concerned the care and housing of the tribe’s orphans.

When treaties began with the United States provisions for the care and well-being of Cherokee orphans was always a vital component of such documents. In the New Echota Treaty of 1835 the tribe saw to it that $50,000.00 dollars of the settlement fee made its way into a fund for orphans. Due to the manner in which the U.S. government relocated the tribe to Indian Territory the number of orphans in the tribe increased greatly through the 1830s. The number of orphaned Cherokees continued to increase and did so astronomically following the U.S. Civil War. By the 1870s the situation regarding orphans was a serious issue within the Cherokee Tribe.

Prior to 1871 the Cherokee’s had never used a central orphanage facility. Before that time families adopted orphans raising them with their own kids. Families taking in orphans received approximately thirty dollars a month to help with various expenses. An old Cherokee saying on the matter stated that, “The Cherokee Nation is the mother of all her orphans.” After the Civil War the increase in the number of orphans, combined with the reduced number of people now available to take them, forced the Cherokee’s to change their long-standing traditions. It was in this week of 1871 that the National Council of the Cherokee Nation enacted a law providing for the construction of a Cherokee Orphan Asylum. Officials after some consideration opted to purchase what is today the eastern section of Salina, Oklahoma for the orphanage. In 1872 the land that is now Salina, Oklahoma was the Lewis Ross Plantation and the main house after adding addition wings would serve as the first ever Cherokee Nation Orphanage. The building officially opened in 1875 with wagon-loads of children converging on the site from all over north eastern Oklahoma.

The orphan child finds a place to call home this week on the Almanac.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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