Museums, Shopping & the Great Smoky Mountains Make For Family Fun
Explore the long and rich history of these Native Americans in the town of Cherokee, which offers visitors a glimpse into Cherokee life, history, and culture.
Nestled at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains in Western North Carolina is the ancient home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The town of Cherokee is at the heart of the 56,000-acre Cherokee lands known as the Qualla Boundary and is also the North Carolina gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
There is much to see and do in the area and you want to be sure and enjoy all of the hiking, picnicking and outdoor sports the mountains have to offer. So, for a quick history and to immerse yourself in the Cherokee culture, here are four must-see Cherokee attractions.
Museum of the Cherokee Indian
Start your visit to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian for a look at the 12,000-year history of these ancient people. As accomplished storytellers, the Cherokee handed down their myths and legends from one generation to the next. Here those tales come alive through computer animation and interactive exhibits. Artifacts of daily life include tools, clothing, weapons and ceremonial items. The museum is also an official interpretive site for the National Park Service Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, which commemorates the relocation of more than 15,000 Cherokee to Oklahoma in 1838, and along which, thousands of Cherokee died. The Trail of Tears is considered the most important event in Cherokee history.
Oconaluftee Indian Village
Go back in time to 1750 and experience life in an authentic Cherokee village. Costumed interpreters interact with visitors while artisans and crafters create pottery, weapons, beadwork, even hulled out canoes using centuries-old methods. Follow the trail of the Cherokee healer and learn about the roots, berries, and herbs used in medicine. Explore the customs, political structure, and language of the Cherokee people. You can even take classes and learn Cherokee crafts such as basketry, pottery making, or finger weaving. Be sure and pre-register for classes as they fill up quickly.
Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual
Founded in 1946, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual is the oldest Native American Arts cooperative in the country. Both a gallery of works old and new and a store where visitors may purchase items, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual represents over 300 Cherokee artists and crafters working in a variety of media. Sculpture in both wood and stone, basketry, pottery, weaving, traditional toys, weapons, and musical instruments can be found here and all are handmade and screened through a selection committee. Here again, you can take classes and make your own Cherokee craft treasure.
Unto These Hills
For nearly 60 years, this outdoor drama has held audiences spellbound with the story of the history and survival of the Cherokee people. The play begins in the shrouded mists of the dawn of time, tells of the power of the Cherokee before the arrival of the white man, continues through the sorrow of the Trail of Tears, and ends at the present looking toward the future. Unto These Hills echoes across the years and the miles to its sister drama, Under the Cherokee Moon, at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
For more information about Cherokee and tribal events, contact the Cherokee Welcome Center at 1-800-438-1601