The Revenant History Lesson: Cherokee Seminary Schools

One of the things that first sold me on The Revenant by Sonia Gensler was how rich it was in various histories. The book is a perfect fit for Novel Novice, and our mission of relating new YA with the classroom. This week, we’ll be featuring several ways to relate The Revenant to history or literature.

Today, we focus on the Cherokee Seminary Schools established in eastern Oklahoma in the mid-19th centuries by the Cherokee National Council. The boarding schools were meant to be places where young Cherokee men and women could seek higher education.

The Cherokee Male Seminary opened its doors in 1847, followed by the Cherokee Female Seminary in 1851. (The Female Seminary eventually burned down in 1887; the new facility opened in 1889. That building is now part of the Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.)

Members of the Cherokee Nation staffed the schools with teachers and faculty, and allocated funds to pay for tuition and board for Cherokee students. (Though later students would have to cover these costs on their own). Subjects included:

  • arithmetic
  • algebra
  • astronomy
  • botany
  • economics
  • geology
  • geography
  • history
  • philosophy
  • Greek, Latin & other language classes
  • and more

Both Cherokee Seminary schools closed under the Curtis Act of 1898, in which the federal government dismantled all Cherokee tribal institutions.

Here are some places where you can learn more:

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