Okmulgee Considers Selling Creek Council House, Creek Nation Wants It Back
By Chris Wright, The News On 6
OKMULGEE, OK -- A battle is brewing over a historic building. The city of Okmulgee is considering selling the Creek Council House. It has been owned by the city for 90 years, but the Creek Nation wants to buy it back.
If the sale goes through, it will happen despite protests from many residents.
The Creek Council House, the nation's original capitol building, has been the centerpiece of downtown Okmulgee since 1878. It was later ceded to the government and sold to the city in 1919. For the better part of a century, it has served as a museum and a monument to Creek history, but its original owners would like it back.
"Essentially the federal government took it away from us and gave it to the city of Okmulgee," said Roger Wiley, Creek Nation Attorney General.
The Creeks are now the only civilized tribe that does not own its original capital. Dealing with the budget problems that are plaguing most cities, Okmulgee is considering letting them have it.
A vote on whether to enter initial negotiations was taken at the Tuesday council meeting. City leaders say they may ask for as much as $3.2 million, the amount it says Okmulgee has spent on the council house over the last two decades.
"The Muskogee Creek Nation has always been a partner with the city of Okmulgee in this area. They have a lot of citizens in this area and everything, and they've always expressed a desire to own their council house," said Bob Baxter, Okmulgee City Manager.
But not everyone is on board with the possible sale.
"It is the heart and soul of our town," said Linda Barksdale, an Okmulgee resident.
Residents like Barksdale voiced their disapproval. She says the building has belonged to everyone in Okmulgee for nearly a century, and the city needs to consider its own past before making decisions that will affect its future.
"Selling your soul, your heart and soul to a historical monument, is just not a good representation of the city of Okmulgee and what we represent," said Barksdale.
The city council decided to table the motion Tuesday night. They say they want to talk to the Creek National Tribal Council before making a decision, and the possible sale will be discussed again at April's council meeting.