VINITA — Travelers on iconic Route 66 now have a new stop to add to their itinerary with the opening of the Cherokee Nation Anna Mitchell Cultural and Welcome Center.
Named in honor of the late Cherokee National Treasure Anna Belle Sixkiller Mitchell, the center shares the history of both Cherokee Nation and the Vinita community while honoring Mitchell’s efforts to revitalize Cherokee pottery.
“This $5 million investment is one that we can all be proud of,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “We proudly open this new center in honor of the late Anna Mitchell to recognize her efforts not only in pottery, but in cultural preservation. This facility will be a beacon for Cherokee culture and art, and will have a positive and enduring economic impact on the local economy.”
The facility is the first of its kind and is the vision of Cherokee Nation first lady January Hoskin, who saw an opportunity for the tribe to expand its tourism offerings and elevate its voice on iconic Route 66.
“Cherokee art and culture are simply beautiful and worth celebrating. As first lady, I have tried to do my part to support the existing facilities and programs, but also encourage the expansion of access to Cherokee art and culture across the reservation and beyond,” said January. “Vinita’s status as a historic Cherokee town along major thoroughfares means that Anna Mitchell’s legacy and this beautiful center will be a true gateway to all of Cherokee Nation.”
Located in Craig County, the 9,400-square-foot, two-story stone building is situated on 8 acres overlooking historic Route 66.
“Like Cherokee Nation Businesses itself, the Anna Mitchell Cultural & Welcome Center is founded with purpose,” said CNB Executive Chairman Bill John Baker. “We have a purpose and passion for developing our communities, supporting our local and regional economies, and preserving our culture. The vision and hard work of everyone involved in this project furthers CNB’s purpose.”
Mitchell was a renowned artist known as a trailblazer and was widely accepted as an authority on both Southeastern and Eastern Woodlands-style pottery. Recognized for her traditional, handmade pottery and for sharing her knowledge and artistic skills with others, Mitchell was designated a Cherokee National Treasure in 1988. Among many others, Deputy Speaker Vazquez carries on her mother’s work and was named a Cherokee National Treasure for pottery in 2012.
“Today is surreal,” said Vazquez. “I’m honored to see everyone gathered here to celebrate this beautiful center and the story we will share here. There was such delicate and thoughtful attention to detail in every aspect of this design, and I’m blown away by the talented artists who have paid tribute to my mother. The work of Chief and first lady Hoskin, Cherokee Nation Businesses, and everyone involved is so impactful. This center is a gift to us all, knowing her legacy will continue to thrive for generations to come in the work of those she taught and inspired. Sharing this day with my sister, Julie, means the world to me.”
Seven Cherokee artists, including many National Treasures, are featured in the center’s inaugural exhibition, “Anna’s Legacy: A Cherokee Pottery Renaissance,” including Cherokee National Treasures Bill Glass Jr., Jane Osti, Lisa Rutherford, and Troy Jackson, alongside Cherokee artists Carrie Lind, Crystal Hanna, and Tama Roberts. Each artist was influenced in some way by Mitchell, and many items are available to purchase.
The center also boasts several original works of art, as well as outdoor public art installations. The sculpture “A Bundle of Seven Arrows,” by Cherokee National Treasure Demos Glass, represents the unity of Cherokee Nation’s seven matrilineal clans. The sculpture is surrounded by “The Vessel,” a landscape feature honoring Mitchell’s work revitalizing Cherokee pottery with high walls designed to resemble stamped pottery patterns.
Formerly known as the Vinita Country Club, the property underwent renovations to join the tribe’s award-winning cultural tourism efforts. The cultural and welcome center now features an exhibit gallery, a grab-and-go café with Native-inspired cuisine, a gift shop, and flexible space for cultural classes and events.
“Vinita is such a fitting location for this wonderful facility, given our deep Cherokee history and our location near existing attractions and along major highways, including Interstate 44 and the historic Route 66,” said Vinita Mayor Chuck Hoskin. “Thanks to the vision of first lady Hoskin, the hard work of the team at Cherokee Nation Businesses and this investment on behalf of the Cherokee people, the Anna Mitchell Cultural & Welcome Center ensures our region will continue to flourish.”
The Cherokee Nation Anna Mitchell Cultural and Welcome Center is open to the public seven days a week from 9 am-5 pm and is at 953 E. Illinois Ave.
Cherokee Nation’s tourism offerings include award-winning specialty and event tours, the operation of six Cherokee Nation museums, and various Cherokee Nation retail locations. For more information, go to www.VisitCherokeeNation.com.