OKMULGEE - More than 130 years after it was built as the Muscogee (Creek) Nation's capitol building, the Council House, a two-story stone and wood building in downtown Okmulgee, once again belongs to the tribe.
The historic building was built in 1878 by the Creek people before the U.S. Department of Interior took possession of it and sold it to the city of Okmulgee in 1919 for $100,000.
Since then, it has housed a sheriff's office, a Boy Scout meeting room, a YMCA and the Creek Council House Museum, which took over the entire building in 1971.
The city agreed in August to sell the Council House back to the Creek Nation for $3.2 million.
The tribe will hold a ceremony Saturday commemorating the repossession of the Council House starting at 10 a.m.
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council will meet that morning in the same House of Warriors room that the legislative branch of the council met in 132 years ago - when the Council House opened. After the meeting, Principal Chief A.D. Ellis and other tribe elders and dignitaries will address tribal members from the balcony of the Council House.
Thompson Gouge, public relations manager for the tribe, said he expects hundreds, if not more than a thousand, people to attend the ceremony.
"It will be like a homecoming," Gouge said. "It's almost like getting our ancestors back."
The Council House is listed on the National Registry of Historic Sites and is designated as a National Historic Landmark.
"The building itself is the same," said David Anderson, executive director of the Council House Museum Association.
Much of the structure is original, including one of two staircases, floors upstairs and a stone sidewalk, Anderson said. In the early 1990s, a $1 million restoration of the Council House was completed with the money raised by the museum association.
Ellis said the Creek Nation getting the Council House back is an important event in the tribe's history.
"It was taken away from us. It will be a great day when we take it back," he said. "This is my seventh year as chief. We've done a lot of big things in those years. This is the biggest thing we've done. We built a $200 million casino on Riverside (Drive), but this is a bigger accomplishment."
Ellis said he remembers as a child in the 1940s visiting Okmulgee with his family Saturdays and coming to the Council House to look through the tribe's, and his own family's, history.
"I used to play in here when I was 5 to 10 years old," he said. "They told me stories of my grandpa's picture in here. ... I came here as a child in the 1940s and it hasn't changed a bit."
Creek (Muscogee) Nation Council House timeline
1878: The Muscogee (Creek) Council meets for the first time in the new Council House in Okmulgee. It replaced the former capitol building, a two-story log structure.
1907: The Council House is leased to Okmulgee County for $2,000 a year to be used as the Okmulgee County Courthouse.
1919: City of Okmulgee purchases the Council House and grounds under the supervision of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which was authorized by Congress to take possession of all tribal lands.
1923: The Creek Indian Memorial Association, the predecessor of the Creek Council House Museum Association, is formed.
1930s-1960s: The Council House houses several groups and organizations, including the Okmulgee Sheriff's Office, Boy Scouts, YMCA and Creek Indian Memorial Association.
1971: Council House becomes a Muscogee (Creek) Nation museum full time
1992: $1 million restoration of the Council House is completed.
2010: The City of Okmulgee sells back the Council House and grounds to the tribe for $3.2 million.
SOURCE: Muscogee (Creek) Nation Public Relations
Sara Plummer 581-8465
email@example.com SUBHEAD: The historic Council House was built in 1878 by the Creek people. Back in the family: tribe buys council house
Original Print Headline: Tribe regains history