Two Very Important Principal Teachers

When the Cherokee Orphan Asylum was first opened in March of 1872, the Cherokee National Council had some very important decisions to make.  What should they name the school?  Who is going to run the school and be employed to teach in the school?

First, we’ll discuss the name of the school:

-“Cherokee” because this school was started and operated by the Cherokee tribe and only Cherokee orphans were to be enrolled in the school.  There were other orphans in the Cherokee Nation at that time but if they were not Cherokee citizens, they were not allowed to enroll.  Several non-Cherokees tried and were denied.

-“Orphan” is pretty straight forward,  “A child who has lost both parents through death, or, less commonly, one parent.”  If you were someone in this situation, which occurred to many children after the Civil War, you met this condition.

-“Asylum”; if you know the true definition of the word asylum, it makes more sense. defines asylum as: “(noun) an institution for the maintenance and care of the mentally ill, orphans, or other persons requiring specialized assistance.”  An asylum is a place of refuge; place to be taken care of until you are able to take care of yourself.  As an orphan, you needed such a place to take care of you until you reached the point of being able to care for your own needs.

Cherokee Orphan Asylum, an institution to take care of the physical, educational and emotional needs of children who were Cherokee citizens, who had been orphaned and could not take care of themselves.  At this institution you would be cared for, education and prepared for the rest of your life.

Now who should run the school and teach there.  For the many years after the school was opened, the Cherokee Board of Education appointed a Superintendent, a Principal Teacher and three to five Assistant Teachers.  They also employed others to help with the feeding and taking care of the students outside of school hours.

Two of the early Principal Teachers went on to very important positions after their time teaching at the Cherokee Orphan Asylum.  One Principal Teacher went on to become the very first Senator from Oklahoma when Oklahoma became a state in 1907.  He remained a U.S. Senator from 1907 until 1925.  Later he even made a run for President of the United States and received some votes at the Democratic National Convention before dropping out of the race.

Another early Principal Teacher taught at the Cherokee Orphan Asylum after graduating from the Cherokee Male Seminary.  Later, he went on to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the 2nd Congressional District in Oklahoma from 1915 to 1921 and again from 1923 to 1935.  Most Native Americans around this area still know his name even though they may now know his background.

Who are these two former Principal Teachers?  If you look on the Internet for a “List of United States Senators from Oklahoma” and a “List of United States Representatives from Oklahoma” you will be able to find out who these two very important men were. 


Robert L. Owen – U.S. Senator

W.W. Hastings – U.S. Representative