Chief Chat: Sequoyah Schools Celebrate 150th Anniversary, A Bright Future | News

For more than 150 years, Sequoyah Schools have been a safe place for Cherokee and other young Native Americans to live, learn and grow. In this milestone anniversary year, we celebrate the many accomplishments of Sequoyah Schools for past and present generations of students. We are also considering a historic investment in the school.

From its humble beginnings as an orphanage, Sequoyah has grown into one of the nation’s premier educational institutions for Indigenous students. The school, which serves students in grades ninth through twelfth, is operated by the Cherokee Nation and funded by the Bureau of Indian Education.

The best proof of the importance of Sequoyah Schools is the love and dedication of its alumni base. Many students come from families who have attended Sequoyah for generations. During this period, the name and population of Sequoyah schools have changed, but its commitment to excellent education has remained the same.

Even in times of enormous hardship, our Cherokee ancestors always valued education. In 1871, the Cherokee National Council passed legislation establishing the Cherokee Orphan Asylum to educate and care for orphans created by the Civil War. Its name was changed to Sequoyah Orphan Training School in 1925 to honor the Cherokee statesman who developed the Cherokee syllabary. The Cherokee Nation agreed to operate Sequoyah High School in 1985, taking over the day-to-day management of the Bureau of Indian Education.

Today, Sequoyah Schools is a modern institution spanning over 90 acres and a dozen buildings, nestled on a beautiful campus in the Cherokee Nation’s capital, Tahlequah. Average enrollment is just over 375 students, all citizens of a federally recognized tribe. Sequoyah offers a diverse curriculum, many specialty courses, and opportunities in athletics, the arts, and a wide variety of clubs.

Since 1934, more than 4,000 students have graduated from Sequoyah, and over the past three years students have earned more than $9 million in scholarships and grants.

I am particularly proud of Sequoyah’s commitment to offering Native history and Cherokee language classes. The school is living up to the legacy of its namesake by sharing knowledge of the Cherokee language with the next generation. It’s a great place for students at our Cherokee immersion schools to continue their education and stay closely connected to our language.

Sequoyah’s future is bright. Last fall, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I proposed, and the Board approved, a $20 million capital investment commitment to Sequoyah. We are also working to free the school from outdated constraints to capital improvements imposed by the federal government. Our goal is to give Sequoyah students and faculty the first-class facilities they deserve.

Sequoyah schools train many of the brightest young Cherokees and other Native Americans to deeply understand and celebrate their tribal identity. They know that being proud tribal citizens and excelling in the arts, STEM fields, business, or any other endeavor they dream of pursuing go hand in hand. Sequoyah graduates are our future leaders, and I’m excited to see what they’re accomplishing.

Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the primary chief of the Cherokee Nation.