Finding a Place to Call Home
November 20, 2002
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.