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Civil War, Statehood, and Beyond


Seminary Hall in 1989 at its centennial celebration. Courtesy of University Archives, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

Cover of the 1999 Northeastern State University Graduate College Catalogue. Courtesy of University Archives, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma

Civil War: During the American Civil War the Cherokees' alliances were split, some sympathizing with the south, themselves slave holders, and others in favor of emancipation. At that time the Cherokee Female Seminary was closed for classes and opened for military use. It was finally reopened for educational purposes after the war in 1873 by Ella Noyes, Mount Holyoke class of 1872. The Seminary flourished under Noyes' leadership and continued to grow under the leadership of other principals until April 10th, 1887 when the seminary building burned. The Cherokee Female Seminary was rebuilt and reopened at another location, a few miles away in Tahlequah, the heart of the Cherokee Nation, in 1889.(10)

Statehood: In 1909 Oklahoma became a state and the seminary building and forty acres of grounds and were bought up by the state. What remained of the Cherokee Female Seminary was integrated into Northeastern State University. The seminary building was used as the administration building until in 1970 when it officially became known as "Seminary Hall." In 1993 through 1995, Northeastern State University did a $3.5 million renovation on Seminary Hall and it is currently used by the University. Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller spoke at the 100th anniversary celebration held for Seminary Hall in 1989. In her speech she noted progress of Cherokee women  through education established in Tahlequah in 1846. (11)

Beyond: Wilma Mankiller wrote an article in 1991 where she discussed the positive effects of the Cherokee Female Seminary and its male counterpart. She described how a high level of literacy decreased dramatically following Oklahoma statehood and the subsequent closing of the schools. Wilma admits that this was a strong argument for the revival of a new tribal government not controlled by the state of Oklahoma, leading to the first election of a Principal Chief in 1971 and eventually to her leadership as the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. Wilma ended by saying: "What tribal people need most today, as we continue to dig our way out of the devastation of the past 200 years, is a cadre of well-trained young people to help us enter the 21st century on our own terms."(12) Wilma, like Ruth Muskrat, recognized the benefits of the Cherokee Female Seminary as an educational institution and pressed for more power in the political, social and economic decision making process for Cherokees in the future.


Atlas Home Page Timeline The Cherokee Connection Ruth Muskrat Wilma Mankiller
This page was created by Melissa Joyce '08 in History 283, Spring Semester 2006 -