Cherokee Cultural Department » History of Cherokee Central Schools

History of Cherokee Central Schools

As early as 1804, Moravian Missionaries operated a school for Cherokee students at Spring Place in Georgia. By 1831, three missionaries were operating 11 schools in Cherokee County.

Cherokee formal education came to a standstill during the forced removal of the Cherokee to Oklahoma Territory in 1838. However, the Cherokee were so interested in the education of their children that they started a school in Tahlequah, Oklahoma as soon as they were settled. They established The Women Seminary.

Col. Will Thomas tried to start Qualla Town Academy for Cherokee students in the late 1800’s but this effort was cut short by the Civil War. During the 1800’s a school was operated by the Quakers through a contract.

From 1890 until 1954, the U.S. Indian Service (later renamed the Bureau of Indian Affairs) operated the Cherokee Boarding Schools at Cherokee. Eventually there were elementary day schools at Big Cove, Soco, Birdtown and Snowbird.

The Boarding School was closed in June of 1954. In 1962, the community day schools were closed and a central elementary school opened in Cherokee.

In May 1975, the seniors graduated in the new Cherokee High School and in August of 1975, grades seven through twelve started their new school year in the new facility.

On August 1, 1990, Cherokee Central Schools became a tribally operated school. The Tribal Council authorized the Cherokee School Board to operate the schools under a P.L. 100-297 Grant for the BIA Department of Education.

Currently, we have approximately 1,300 students in grades K-12. The schools are accredited by the BIA, the State of North Carolina, and by the Southern Association of colleges and Schools. In 1989 the Cherokee Award of Excellence, an honor earned by approximately 200 schools in the entire United States was awarded to the Cherokee High School. The schools provide and at the same time, maintain our proud and sacred Indian heritage.

Fall of 1996, Cherokee Central School System established Kituwah curriculum for grades K-6.

After years of determination, patience, and hard work, the Ravensford Tract once again became Tribal property for the third time, having come full circle after 166 years. The Tribe gave the National Park Service a larger tract of land joining the Blue Ridge Parkway in exchange for the Ravensford Tract.