TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) — Tribal leaders with the Cherokee Nation says they are taking the fight against racial inequality to heart and are making changes at their own square.
This weekend, two Confederate monuments were removed from the Cherokee Nation Capitol Square in Tahlequah.
Officials say both monuments were placed on the square nearly 100 years ago when the property was a county courthouse that was owned by the state.
“We’ve suffered for centuries with too many others telling our story for us as they see fit,” Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. said. “It’s difficult to tell our story when we have non-Indian-driven monuments talking about the Confederacy, when they greet people as they come into our Cherokee Nation museum. It was time for a change.”
Officials say a fountain memorializing Confederate soldiers and Confederate General Stand Watie was situated directly in the center of the square.
There was also a second granite monument weighing 13,000 pounds that honored General Watie.
Watie was a leader of the Cherokee Nation in the 1800s and was the only Native American to attain the rank of general during the Civil War. He is known as the last Confederate general in the field to surrender.
Chief Hoskin said the Cherokee Nation is not erasing history, adding that the Civil War story needs to be told as well as the stories of pivotal figures such as General Watie – but told through the Cherokee Nation lens, told appropriately, and told in a message that evokes unity.
“There are some painful references on these monuments and I think we live in a time when we need to be mindful of the unity we have here on the courthouse Capitol Square. If there is one place at the Cherokee Nation that should stand for unity it should be here. After all, this is where we reconstituted our government and came back together as a people, and I think we need to do that today,” he said.
Officials say the monuments will now be stored by the Cherokee Nation.
The tribe is working on plans for future art projects for the square, such as a monument dedicated to the Trail of Tears.
“A lot is going on in this country in terms of racial strife and the Cherokee Nation plays a role in healing, and this is one of the ways we can do that,” Chief Hoskin said.