The Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC) is an (inter)national association of universities and colleges dedicated to the improvement of liberal education through the use of core texts. In cooperation with the Cherokee Heritage Center (CHC) near Tahlequah Oklahoma, and with the logistical support of Northeastern State University, ACTC has been awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities a national, professional development workshop grant for a project for high school teachers under the “Landmarks of American History: Workshops for Teachers” initiative: “Wiping Away the Tears: Renewing Cherokee Culture and American History through the Cherokee Heritage Center and the Trail of Tears.” “Wiping Away the Tears” is designed to use a significant American Landmark, the Cherokee Heritage Center, as a site to increase the public’s knowledge and appreciation of Cherokee/American history and culture.

Wiping Away the Tears: Scope, Content and Approach

The Trail of Tears was the forced, organized emigration march of the Cherokee Nation from the Southeastern United States to the Indian Territory (now the state of Oklahoma) during the years 1838-39. Over time, the Trail of Tears has become a kind of two-way lens whereby the Cherokee and all Americans are enabled not only to re-examine past events leading up to the exodus, but to develop – through historiography, art, and cultural institutions – a vision for the future which embraces the best of Cherokee life in a pluralistic, American society.

Central to the re-discovery of the past and the renewal of the present is the Landmark Cherokee Heritage Center (CHC). The CHC in Tahlequah is not only the site of the march’s end, but a foundation for the renewal of the Cherokee nation through education. Grounded in an ages-old, autonomous culture that had retained its distinctive identity while readily adapting to 18th and 19th Century introductions of Western cultural traditions, the Cherokee were a constitutionally-organized, propertied, and highly literate people who – after removal -- relied upon the development of liberal, humanistic education to restore and renew themselves. On May 7th, 1851 the Cherokee opened the first Women’s Seminary west of the Mississippi (complemented by a Men’s Seminary) and, following the Civil War, established the first compulsory free education west of the Mississippi. The Cherokee Cultural Heritage Center incorporates in its physical layout the remaining fire-scarred columns of the Women’s Seminary – a symbol of the effort by the Center to reach out to the majority culture through education. Indeed, the Seminary historically ties the Cherokee to the secular world of Oklahoma, for the rebuilt Seminary became, in turn, the foundation of the Northeastern Normal School, now Northeastern State University, in Tahlequah.

The Center is, itself, a demonstration of the historical process of cultural renewal and integration and “Wiping Away the Tears” seeks both to take advantage of this institutional resource and to demonstrate the Center’s role in cultural renewal. Staffed by experts in education, archives, museum and exhibit displays, the Center is a site of public on-going educational activities about Cherokee history and present-day culture. The Cherokee Heritage Center will be the site for lectures, outdoor and museum exhibits on the Trail of Tears and the pre-and-post-removal ways of life, the enactment of Cherokee Trail of Tears drama (in an amphitheatre seating 1800), the use of archives of Cherokee core texts pertaining to resettlement, and the home of artistic works of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Of course, one of the most important features of the Center and “Wiping Away the Tears” is that many Cherokee, as well as other Native Americans associated with the Center, will be teaching in the workshop; thus, the educators who attend will have the opportunity to question people for whom much of this history is felt as a living memory. Supplementing the Center’s resources, Northeastern State University in Tahlequah will provide classrooms and lecture halls for the project.

Each workshop of one-week duration, running July 18-22 and July 25-29, 2005, will be core-text based, relying on historical documents and original source literature of the Cherokee, United States Government, European/American cultures. These sources will be enlarged and complemented by a rich provision of experiences in historical Cherokee artifacts, arts, and practices provided by the Cherokee Cultural Heritage Center. Core texts carry us through history with a narrative drawn from the voices of the times; the CHC site makes visually concrete not only the final destination of the Trail of Tears, but artifacts and exhibits of what was lost, what was preserved, and what has been gained for both the Cherokees and all Americans.

Each day of the workshop will involve lectures by outstanding scholars from national and local universities to provide the scholarly insights into the historical background of the Trail of Tears and Cherokee recovery. These are complemented by seminar discussions which are meant both to allow you to explore with collegues the rich provision of materials and to model a liberal arts discussion pattern for teaching in the classroom.

Specific content and an introduction to our specialist lecturers and discussion facilitators

A recent study found that in a dozen U.S. History textbooks examined, only three of these could be considered “above average” in the accuracy of their “cultural information” about Native Americans. What will “Wiping Away the Tears” bring to America’s history education that a textbook cannot?

Complexity of story and voices that results from the intertwining of reading original core texts: The project will begin with historical Native American background materials and recorded Cherokee myths. Having glimpsed the Cherokee culture as it encountered European settlers, we read about the latter’s religious and philosophical conceptions about natural rights to the use of land derived from Bible and the rise of modern political and legal thought which constitutes much of the 17th and 18th Century Enlightenment. We, then, examine the complex adaptation of Cherokee habits of discussion and governance to new philosophical insights and inventions of the Enlightenment. We read the new Cherokee written constitution (1827) and the rising sentiment for and against Indian removal in the speeches in the Senate and Supreme Court (1830-1835). We learn of the complex feelings and motives of the Cherokee about removal, the recorded misery of the Trail of Tears brought on by the forced removal, and the attempts by many whites to mitigate that misery, while others seemed indifferent or to add their hostility to it (1838-1839). Finally, we turn to the fratricidal aftermath upon arrival in Indian Territory as a conclusion to this chapter of an enormously tragic yet complicated segment of Cherokee-American history. Dr. Raymond Fogelson, Professor, University of Chicago, Anthropology Department, an internationally famous anthropologist who has devoted much of his life to the study of Southeastern Native Americans, including the Cherokee, will be the first lecturer of our project’s noted scholars of Cherokee and Native American history. Durbin Feeling, Instructor of Native American Languages at the University of Oklahoma Anthropology Department in Norman, who has received an honorary doctorate from Ohio State University’s School of Linguistics for his work on the language and literature of the Cherokee, will share his insights of the connections between Cherokee myths and language. Blue Clark, Creek in heritage and Professor, Oklahoma City University, School of Law, has researched Native American legal issues, Religion, and United States History; he will open up the historical and legal events leading up to the Trail of Tears. Principal Chief Chad Smith, J.D., Head of State and Chief Executive of the Cherokee Nation, will provide the insights of his Dartmouth-based course on the legal history of laws and decisions that led to the forced exodus.

A middle to this story, rarely told in either textbooks or the popular press: Despite the disaster of the Trail of Tears and the political fratricide that followed it, the Cherokee Nation established a public school system in 1841, made the public education system compulsory, and, before 1907 statehood for Oklahoma, “graduated more students from college than in Texas and Arkansas combined.” The commitment to education was extended to women as well as men, the Cherokee National Female Seminary (on the Cherokee Heritage Center site) being established in 1851. A striking counter-example to most textbooks’ discussions of U.S. Indian assimilation efforts based in education like that of the Pennsylvanian Carlisle School of the 1880’s, the Women’s Seminary was founded by and had a board composed of Cherokee, with William Ross and David Vann traveling to Mount Holyoke to recruit Ellen Whitmore and Sarah Worcester to become the administrators of the Seminary. As a participant, you will read original source documents about the foundation of this Seminary and witness video reminiscences of descendants of the women who were students in the Seminary, provided through the work of Brad Agnew, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of History, Northeastern State University. James Pate, Ph.D. Vice President Academic Affairs, Northeastern State University as an historian of the Southern United States, is conversant with Cherokee educational history, particularly the transition of the Cherokee Women’s Seminary into the Normal School at Tahlequah and, finally, into Northeastern State University.

An open ending to the story, one which builds to a Cherokee recovery in the heartland of American life: Blue Clark has noted that “the Trail of Tears is formative to the Cherokee experience.” There are almost no post-removal narratives written by Cherokee in the 19th Century about this disastrous, sad story. Robert Conley, Cherokee author, has remarked that, “I suppose it was just too painful” for participants to tell the story to themselves. Yet, in the 19th Century, Royce and Mooney, early ethnographers for the Smithsonian Institution, not only published accounts of the Trail with sources mined from U.S. and Cherokee government papers, Cherokee pre-removal publications, and public accounts of the Trail, but Mooney interviewed participants and their descendants for reminiscences of the Trail of Tears experience. Later, in a 1930’s WPA historical recovery project (and in the late 70’s), interviewers recorded on tapes the stories passed-on by word of mouth, enhanced by reading late 19th Century accounts such as Mooney’s. After mid-century, artistic practices and cultural institutions began to form that focused on the Trail of Tears and, later, on the breadth and activities of Cherokee culture. Conley remarks,” it became possible to write about the Trail because people were asking about it.” As a project participant, you will read one of Conley’s novels and be taught by Conley; you will discuss Cherokee art on exhibit at the Center, and will talk with those who have built the Cherokee Heritage Center for over a third of a century as they have renewed the literary, artistic, and cultural heritage of the Cherokee for all Americans. Mary Ellen Meredith, President and Chairman of the Board of the Cherokee National Historical Society will discuss the founding and development of the Center; Mary Jo Watson, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Art, University of Oklahoma at Norman, has been the chief researcher, writer and curator for a number of major exhibitions, including Moving the Fire: The Removal of the Five Civilized Tribes Into Indian Territory. She will lecture on the Cherokee art in the 20th Century. And John Feaver, Ph.D., University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, who as President and educator at Oklahoma’s public liberal arts college, has been deeply involved in the relationship between liberal arts, humanities, and Indian culture, will provide a final insight on the importance of Native American studies to liberal arts and education in the United States, today.

A manner of education which our participating teachers can bring back to their schools and students: In the spirit of multi-disciplinary seminars based on core texts that characterize liberal education, “Wiping Away the Tears” will employ discussion sessions designed to bring out the liberal arts features of this project. Here, you, your fellow teachers, and discussion facilitators will engage in collegial inquiry about the history and materials of the project. In addition to the experience that each teaching colleague brings to these discussions, our discussion facilitators have either extensive high school teaching experience or substantive experience in bringing these materials to the wider public. We, also, urge our participants to think in terms of bringing back discussion techniques to their colleagues and students. Our discussion facilitators’ backgrounds include scholarship in Cherokee and American history, curriculum design, museum work, writing instruction, work with Native American populations, high school instruction and administration, and extensive teaching in discussion settings with core texts. These teachers include: Dr. Blue Clark (see above), discussion facilitators’ co-ordinator; Julia Coates, Ph.D. Instructional Designer, Cherokee Nation, Steven Woods, M.A. English, Instructor of Humanities and Native American Studies, Tulsa Community College, Antha Cotton-Sprecklmeyer, Ph.D., Associate Director of the University of Kansas Humanities and Western Civilization Program, Brother Martin Fallin, FSC. M.A. Immaculate Heart College, is a lecturer in St. Mary’s College of California, Ellen Pearson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, History Department, University of North Carolina at Asheville.

Readings and Description of Activities of the Workshop

Readings will include recorded myths of the Cherokee, Native American and Cherokee public addresses, letters, and legal documents prior to removal, their own Enlightenment-informed constitution, Biblical and philosophical texts and ideas which European settlers brought to North America, observations by acute observers on the state of Indian life in the new nation and during the Trail of Tears, editorials on the wisdom surrounding removal, letters and diaries written during the removal, personal accounts of the aftermath of the removal and the recovery and renewal through building the Women’s Seminary, historical reminiscences of the Women’s Seminary, and novels, poems, and plays of 20th Century Cherokee. These will be supplemented, enlivened, and enriched by tours of reconstructed Cherokee villages, a tour of the Trail of Tears exhibit at the CHC, enactment of the Trail of Tears drama, exhibits of paintings, baskets, and sculptures. See List of Readings and Description of Activities of the Workshop accompanying these materials for a more detailed view of the workshop’s richness. Instructions on which materials will be purchased and which supplied by the project will be forthcoming after participants have been selected.


Teachers selected to participate will receive a stipend of $500. Stipends are intended to help cover travel expenses to and from Tahlequah, books, and ordinary living expenses, that is housing and food. Stipends are taxable. Travel supplements for those traveling long distances will be available but will be allocated after participants are selected, on a case-by-case basis, at the time of the workshop or shortly thereafter.

Housing, Board, and Transportation

Housing in dorm room accommodations, linen, and board will be provided in Tahlequah by Northeastern State University. Particulars of how the project will arrange accommodations for each individual will be announced after May 1. With a couple planned exceptions, meals will be taken on campus.

The Tahlequah Area

Your days and nights will, often, be filled with activities of the project. For example, we will be viewing the Trail of Tears drama in the Cherokee Heritage Center’s 1,800 seat amphitheatre and the rich provision of readings may excite in you a desire to revisit many of our texts. But when you need a break, the Tahlequah area offers a safe environment, entertainment and cultural activities to relax the mind and to give you a chance to stretch your legs in a wonderful small town of middle America. You’ll be housed on the second oldest college campus west of the Mississippi, so the stately trees and Victorian buildings provide a lovely setting for evening strolls. For off campus activities, you might wish to use the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Council website to learn of opportunities for exploring the area, as well as other websites of the Tahlequah area: Or, try the Tahelquah Mainstreet Association website at There are, of course, useful links on the Cherokee Heritage Center website, as well, at