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Tenkiller is inseparably linked with the history of the Cherokee. This area, before 1800 was the ancestral home and territorial hunting domain of first the Caddo and then the Osage Indians. Most Indian artifacts found will be of these tribes.
About 1800 an Indian trader named Lovely made a purchase agreement with the Osage for a 100 mile square of land which became known as "Lovely’s Purchase." He built a courthouse which was the seat of government affairs. It was located at a site first known as "Kidron" and later, after the Cherokees arrived, as Dwight Mission. Dwight Mission is 3 miles northwest of Sallisaw on Dwight Mission Road. The first known white man to bring his family and settle here was Captain Mark Bean in 1803. He built a farm on the bank of the Illinois River encompassing the area of the Lake Tenkiller Dam.
The Treaty of 1817, between the U.S. Government and a portion of the Cherokee Nation, started the Cherokee migration to this area. This Western Nation and Chief John Jolly established a settlement and capitol called Tahlonteeskee (located 2.5 miles southeast of Gore on Hwy. 64) with a National Council House and Courthouse on the Illinois River. The council house, court house and council grounds were the center of the Cherokee Nation West. Today, these buildings remain a relic of the original Capital of the Cherokee Nation.
When the Eastern Cherokee Nation was driven from their homeland on the "Trail of Tears" in 1838-1839 the two nations were reunited and the capitol was reestablished at Tahlequah. Captain Mark Bean and numerous other white pioneer settlers were forced to move from this area by the U.S. Government in 1829 because the land was decreed "Cherokee Land."
A member of the Western Cherokee Nation by the name of George Gist (Sequoyah) developed the Cherokee alphabet (syllabary) about 1820 so the tribe could better communicate in their language on paper. He became a noted leader in the Cherokee Nation. The original log cabin home of Sequoyah is located ust north of Sallisaw on Hwy. 59, then east on State Hwy. 101. This site is maintained by the Okalhoma Historical Society. Admission to the site is free. (918) 775-2413.
The Cherokee Nation, now a model of the result of creating success from hardship, has maintained several historical sites which have developed since its arrival in Oklahoma. In and near Tahlequah one may see the Cherokee Capitol Building, the old Tribal Prison, Cherokee Supreme Court Building, Female Seminary built in1889, an historic Indian Village, Museum, and the famous outdoor drama at Tsa-La-Gi. South of Tahlequah, the W.W. Keeler Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex has provided administrative and legislative offices for the Cherokee Nation since 1979. Today, the Cherokee Nation boasts a membership of more than 160,000 with an annual budget in excess of $86 million.
Cherokee Heritage Center/Museum -located 3 miles south of Tahlequah on US Hwy. 62. Includes Tsa-La-Gi Ancient Village. The ancient village is a re-creation of a Cherokee settlement at the time of European contact. Guided tour. Cherokee National Museum tells the entire Cherokee story throughout pre-history down to modern times. Trail of Tears Outdoor Drama is presented during the summer. A fascinating historic drama that brings to life the turbulent period when the Cherokee people were forced from their ancestral homeland. For more information: (918) 456-6007.
Murrell Home (c. 1844) in Park Hill, is a restored antebellum home which was the scene of many important social and political events in Indian Territory. The grounds include a nature trail and picnic facilities. One the self-guided tour, one sees much of Tahlequah’s historic past: the Cherokee Supreme Court Building (c.1844) - the oldest government building in Oklahoma, the Cherokee National Prison (c.1874), the former Cherokee Female Seminary (c. 1889), a Civil War-era cabin and turn-of-the-century homes.
Faulkner’s Cabin - located in downtown Sallisaw on West Cherokee, Faulkner’s Cabin, built in 1845, is the restored cabin and museum of Judge Frank Faulkner, a pioneer lawyer of early Sequoyah county. Admission free.
Ft. Gibson Military Park - located near Muskogee, the Fort Gibson Military Post and National Cemetery is a popular attraction. Fort Gibson was built in 1824, and was Oklahoma’s first military establishment. Inexperienced graduates from West Point wer often sent to Fort Gibson for their first frontier service, because it was considered a "hard" test for leadership, resourcefulness and character. Military re-enactments take place during the year, including Civil War Camp and Indian War Camp. The Fort also participates in a Christmas candlelight tour and ghost stories. Armed Forces Day activities are celebrated each year. For more information: Fort Gibson Military Park, 110 E. Ash, Fort Gibson, OK 74434, (918) 478-2669.
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