Manataka® American Indian Council
Oaks Indian Mission
Image courtesy of the Moravian Archives www.moravianarchives.org
A small band of Moravians arrived on these shores in the mid-1700 with a deep sense of mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Cherokee had a remarkable gift of hospitality and a vision of growing stronger as a nation from a partnership with their new neighbor. Somewhere in that blessed connection, Springplace Mission was born in northern Georgia a few miles from New Echota, capital of the Cherokee Nation.
It did not happen overnight. Over the course of two decades, as trust was building between the two very different cultures. In the autumn of 1801, the Mission got its official start when the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, James Vann, gave his home to the Moravian missionaries for use as a school.
Within a few years, many of the future leaders of the Cherokee Nation passed through the classrooms at Springplace, Elias Boudinot among them.
Boudinot was a man of great intellect who found himself at the center of the Removal controversy. While still a young man, his considerable gifts, particularly language skills, made significant contributions to Cherokee culture and politics. He was the founder and editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, the first indigenous language newspaper in the United States.
Reverend Samuel Worchester translated the New Testament into the Cherokee language. His translation is still in the use throughout the Cherokee Nation today.
Shortly after the infamous Trail of Tears in the autumn of 1842, the mission was re-established and named New Springplace in Oaks, Oklahoma. New Springplace was one of the first school bells to ring out in Indian Territory. New Springplace provided a sense of order in the midst of chaos of the grief-stricken and disoriented Cherokee.
Two decades later the Cherokee were severely traumatized again with the outbreak of Civil War. Even though the mission at New Springplace maintained strict neutrality, it was seriously affected by the bloody conflict. Like a spark of light in this time of darkness, the Reverend James Ward, a Cherokee Moravian pastor, educated in the East, continued the work of New Springplace the best he could, but he became a martyr when he refused to abandon his post.
At the turn of the century, the Moravians entrusted the responsibility for the Mission to Lutherans. In 1926, under Lutheran leadership, New Springplace became a residential home for children. Cherokee children needed a place to live while they received a quality education.
In the late 1930’s, the residential school was renamed Oaks Indian Mission – an Institution with a proud heritage and a promising future. Today, a close working relationship exists between Oaks Indian Mission, the community, the children’s home, the Lutheran congregation, and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Together, they form a partnership with exciting visions for the future.
Oaks Indian Mission began humbly with a family of five children and today has grown into a campus of four cottages with a capacity for 50 children. Girls and boys from ages 4 to 18 from a multitude of tribal backgrounds enjoy a stable living environment, recreational opportunities, and a quality education. A community of caring professional teachers, staff, and Lutheran volunteers are dedicated to offering children an excellent environment in which to excel.
Funds to operate the Oaks Indian Mission are the same as they have been for many years – gifts from individuals, families, congregations, and organizations. There is no government bailout here, federal, state, or otherwise. No fees are required of parents or families. Children served by the Oaks Indian Mission are welcome, regardless of their ability to pay.
According to Reverand Don Marshall, Director of Development, “The Oaks Indian Mission is a venture of faith. The Lord has been faithful for over two hundred years by working through people who respond to our needs by giving their time, talents, and possessions.”
“We invite you into a partnership, financially and spiritually that may also include your presence, on occasion, if and when you are able. Living out that long-standing tradition of hospitality, we continue to welcome the visitor who, through the promptings of the Spirit in this place, may very well become an even more passionate partner in the care and nurture of children. To stand on these sacred grounds is to sense the gift of so many ancestors before us as we gaze into the future seen in the bright eyes of a child,” said Rev. Marshall.
Oaks Indian Mission is a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, witnessing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the heart of the Cherokee Nation. Their mission is to enable people to achieve wholeness of body, mind and spirit while sustaining dignity and harmony with others and to nurture cultural and personal identity in relationship with God, family and community.
The Manataka American Indian Council encourages you to contribute to the Oaks Indian Mission: Tax ID: 73-0717995
To Give by Internet
To Give by Mail
Oaks Indian Mission,
PO Box 130
Oaks, OK 74359-0130
To Give by Phone
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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