Cherokee Nation to reopen cultural tourism sites next month

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – The Cherokee Nation says it is still waiting a few weeks before it reopens cultural tourism sites in a phased approach.

The organizations suspended operations after the state of emergency was issued by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. on March 16 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our primary mission is to provide guests with opportunities to interact with authentic Cherokee culture, history and heritage,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. said. “While we are observing enhanced safety procedures, some of these experiences will take on a new form but will remain true to providing immersive educational experiences.”

The first phase of reopening is set to begin on July 15.

The openings will take place in the following three phases:

Phase One (July 15)

  • Cherokee National History Museum
  • Tahlequah Gift Shop
  • Cherokee Heritage Center.

Phase Two (July 22)

  • Cherokee National Prison Museum
  • Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum
  • Cherokee Gift Shop inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa.

Phase Three (July 29)

  • John Ross Museum
  • Sequoyah’s Cabin Museum
  • Welcome Center in Kansas
  • Welcome Center in Catoosa.

Tribal leaders say they still plan to follow safety procedures like physical distancing, limited occupancy, enhanced cleaning and sanitation, and required use of face masks by all.

“We couldn’t be more excited to open our doors and welcome back guests, though our enthusiasm to reopen is matched with an equal sense of responsibility to protect our team members, guests and our neighbors,” said Travis Owens, director of Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism. “As we open our doors, we do so with a renewed respect for one another’s safety, a heartfelt commitment to safely serving our guests, and a passion for sharing the history and culture of the Cherokee people with the world.”

Upon its July 15 reopening, the Cherokee Heritage Center will debut the 49th annual Trail of Tears Art Show and Sale, the longest-running Native American art show and competition in Oklahoma.

“This show was originally set to open in early spring, just as the threat of coronavirus became reality,” said Paul Buckner, interim executive director for CHC. “Now the show is breathing life back into our facility and giving our community something to look forward to. We’re thankful for the compassionate and proactive leadership from Chief Hoskin and the Cherokee National Historical Society board of trustees throughout this difficult time and hope everyone will visit us soon to experience this remarkable show.”

A virtual reception will be shared on the heritage center’s Facebook page beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 10 to announce the winners of more than $15,000 in prize money.

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