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In Honor of Native American Heritage Month, Cherokee Nation Offers Free Museum Admission

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Rhonda Joe, Miss Navajo Nation, 2016-17

Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Museum (Jason R. Terrell)

The Cherokee Nation is inviting the community to learn more about their culture with free museum admission this November.

The tribe owns and operates three museums that feature genuine artifacts, which "bring to life the true Cherokee experience," said Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, in a press release. They include the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum, the Cherokee National Prison Museum and the John Ross Museum.

“Native American Heritage Month is the perfect opportunity to open our museum doors to the public and invite everyone to experience authentic Native American history and culture," Baker said.

The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is housed in Oklahoma’s oldest public building, originally built in 1844. The exhibits focus on three historic aspects of tribal sovereignty: the tribe's judicial system, the Cherokee Advocate and the Cherokee Phoenix newspapers, and the Cherokee language. Visitors can view authentic historical items, photos, stories, objects and furniture.

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A former penitentiary building—the only one of its kind in Indian Territory from 1875 to 1901—makes the Cherokee National Prison Museum feel as real as it was when it sentenced and accused "the most hardened and dangerous prisoners," who remained behind its sandstone rock walls, the press release states. The museum, an interpretive site, provides a glimpse at how law and order operated in Indian Territory. Visitors can walk through a blacksmith area and reconstructed gallows. An interactive kiosk tells stories of notorious Cherokees—perceived by some as outlaws and revered by others as patriots.

The John Ross Museum is dedicated to telling the stories behind John Ross, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation for more than 38 years. It additionally holds exhibits and interactive displays on the Trail of Tears, Civil War, Cherokee Golden Age and the tribe's passion for the education of its people.

The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is located at 122 E. Keetoowah St., and the Cherokee National Prison Museum is at 124 E. Choctaw St., both in Tahlequah. The John Ross Museum is located at 22366 S. 530 Rd. in Park Hill, Oklahoma.

sheep butchering, Navajo Nation Fair, 2016

Kaylee Begay is 23 years old from Canyon De Chelly, Chinle Arizona. Here she is demonstration her skills in the sheep butchering contest as part of the Miss Navajo Nation pageant. Her teammate, also a Miss Navajo Nation contestant, is Shannon Gorman, also from Chinle Arizona.

Cherokee Nation Museums are open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For information on Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, including museum operations, please call (877) 779-6977 or visit