OAKS — A little-known American Indian children’s home that’s nestled in oak trees near the Illinois River is commemorating its heritage today with the 1801 Society Event.
The 1801 Society Event honors the date the Moravian Church sent missionaries to Springplace, Ga., to provide educational and religious training for the Cherokee people.
The history of Oaks Indian Mission can be traced to the 1838 Trail of Tears journey, when three Moravian missionaries traveled ahead of the Indians in search of an ideal place to settle. They chose a site north of present-day Tahlequah and named it for their former home back in Georgia. Later, it was renamed Oaks.
The sixth annual festival begins at 10 a.m. and concludes at 2 p.m. Included in the festivities are historical tours through the Eben Ezer Lutheran Church, the original site where New Springplace was founded, to the cemetery where some of the founding missionaries are buried.
“A tour guide will also share the history as guests are allowed to experience what the founding fathers did as they walked down the original steps to the spring,” said David Schachle, Oaks Indian Mission executive director.
Guests can interact with the children as they walk through the dorms, activity center, cafeteria and pottery building and the future site of the Native American Museum.
Other activities will include music by the Cherokee Gospel Group and a free meal with deep-fried hog meat, fry bread, wild onions and eggs.
After lunch, Deana Ward will provide Cherokee storytelling, and children from the Oaks Indian Mission choir will recite the Lord’s Prayer in Cherokee and English.
The 152-acre campus is in southern Delaware County, about 70 miles east of Tulsa.
In 1902, the mission became a Lutheran ministry and today is a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
HOW TO HELP
The Oaks Indian Mission is a shelter for children who need a home and is funded solely through donations. A decrease in donations during the past year has left the mission well short of its $1 million annual budget and since it is faith-based, it does not receive government funding. If you would like more information about the mission or would like to make a donation, call (918) 868-2196 or send donations to Oaks Indian Mission at P.O. Box 130, Oaks, OK 74359.