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JB Milam

JB Milam is best known as the First Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941. At the time of his confirmation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Milam had already been named Chief by the National Council of Cherokees. As chief, he wanted to reconstruct the tribal government and renew tribal claims against the federal government. To this end, he helped found the National Congress of American Indians and established elections for a Cherokee tribal council, which was designed to rebuild the Cherokee Nation’s government. In 1946, he began purchasing land for the Cherokee Nation and two years later convened a national convention to pursue Cherokee rights to the Indian Land Claims Commission and to elect a Cherokee National Assembly. He actively researched Cherokee history, culture, and legal issues and served as the catalyst for the production of several books on the Cherokees. Miliam located the original mold for the Cherokee syllabary and began working to get type made to publish materials in the Cherokee language. One of his greatest achievements was to begin planning a Cherokee Heritage Center, which was implemented by Principal Chief W.W. Keeler after Milam’s death. Born in Texas, Milam’s family moved to Chelsea, Oklahoma, when he was only three years old. He began his career in his father’s hardware store and later became the first president of the Bank of Chelsea, the first bank in the Cherokee Nation. He also was a founder and first president of the Rogers County Bank in Claremore. With his brother-in-law, he formed Phillips and Milam Oil Company, which had more than 1,000 producing wells by the early 1930s.