Few places in this world demonstrate the richness of culture, depth of history, and natural beauty of Cherokee, NC. Part of the Qualla Reservation, Cherokee is home to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and has become an epicenter of cultural activity as the tribe works to preserve its 10,000 year old history and traditions while engaging today's generations in their storied culture. Cherokee, NC is uniquely situated amidst many natural wonders: it sits at the end of the Blue Ridge Mountain chain, at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and around the tranquil Ocanaluftee River. For the traveler, the list of natural and cultural events and attractions is staggering; from the city's Museum of the Cherokee Indian, to the nearby attractions in the Great Smoky Mountains, to the Harrah's Cherokee Casino and so much more.
A Weaver at the Ocanaluftee Village
The long and enduring history of the Cherokee is very much a part of the way of life in Cherokee, NC. Artifacts found in the region have been dated as far back as 11,000 years ago, long before the construction of Egypt's ancient pyramids! These findings have only confirmed what the Cherokee already knew; some of their oldest stories even tell of their ancestors hunting the mastodons that populated the area near the end of the ice age. Many millennia before the Europeans made contact with them they had developed sustainable agriculture, advanced archery, sophisticated political systems and a mutually beneficial relationship with nature that eludes most modern day societies.
For today's visitors to Cherokee, there are a great many exciting ways to experience and learn from both the ancient and modern culture of tribe. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian utilizes the latest in technology coupled with one of the largest collection of artifacts to take visitors on a historical journey through the over 11,000 years of Cherokee history. At Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, travelers discover how today's Cherokee artisans, by utilizing their age-old mastery of traditional techniques and creatively re-interpreting more modern themes, have crafted some of the world's most stunning baskets, pottery, carvings and more.
If you're in the region during the summer, you won't want to miss “Unto These Hills”, an outdoor dramatic enactment of Cherokee History. For those wanting an even more in depth look into the tribe’s culture, the Oconaluftee Indian Village offers the visitor a chance to transport themselves back to the year 1750, a time defined by the 7 clans of the Cherokee. The village earnestly maintains the ancient traditions that have helped the tribe endure through the ages.
For those simply looking to enjoy the great outdoors of Western North Carolina, they need look no further than Cherokee, NC. Whether you’re into fishing, hiking, or just kicking back and relaxing, it’s all within reach; after all, Cherokee lies at the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, America’s most visited national Park! Cherokee also boasts a world class Harrah’s Casino.
Despite the culture and beauty embodied in today’s Cherokee, NC, the tribe’s history once collided with one of the darkest moments in US history. Throughout the tribe’s initial contact with Europeans, the adaptable Cherokee were able to coexist peacefully with their new neighbors, helping them learn about the wilderness of Southeastern North America and even fighting along side them. However this peace was not meant to last; as more and more Europeans poured into America the Sovereign land of the Cherokee Nation became increasingly valuable to a young American Government in need of land to house its ever growing citizenry. A long series of broken treaties ended horrifically with the Trail of Tears: Andrew Jackson’s forced march of the Cherokee and other tribes out of their homelands to area’s west of the Mississippi. Despite all odds, some Cherokee were able to remain while others made the long trip back to their North Carolinian homelands by foot. After many years of struggle, today’s Eastern Cherokee have formed the vibrant sovereign nation over 100 sq. miles in the area that we know today.