Cherokee Female Seminary

The Cherokee Female Seminary, one of the first boarding schools for Native Americans, was not created by the federal government, but was founded in 1851 by the Cherokee National Council of Oklahoma. Students at the Cherokee Female Seminary took courses in Latin, French, trigonometry, political economy, and literary criticism, a curriculum that precluded any discussion of Cherokee culture or language. Pupils staged dramatic productions, held music recitals and published their own newsletter. But their graduation rate proved almost non-existent, and color and class hierarchies existed with lighter-peers referring to themselves as "progressive" Cherokees. Still this institution helped shape an acculturated Cherokee identity in which young graduates "became educators, businesswomen, physicians, stock raisers, and prominent social workers. Responding to tribal criticisms that the seminary students were ill prepared to take their places as farmers’ wives, the curriculum shifted by 1905 to include classes in "domestic science" with cooking and cleaning predominately featured. For fifty years, more than 3,000 young women had attended the Cherokee Female Seminary, and their lives there "helped to strengthen their identities as Cherokees although there were differences in opinion as to what a Cherokee really was," according to historian Devon Mihesuah. The old female seminary building still stands on the campus of Northeastern State University in Oklahoma