Cherokee Heritage Itinerary -- Stop 1 Museum of the Cherokee Indian
The stops along this tour relate to vastly different periods of Cherokee history, from many centuries ago to the present. Begin your adventure at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, where the high-tech exhibits and dazzling collection of art and artifacts will equip you with a good sense of the Cherokee people’s ancient and still-blossoming culture in North Carolina’s high country.
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian opened its doors – or more accurately, its door, as it was first housed in a log cabin – in 1948. Over the sixty-plus years of its existence, the Museum has grown to house major permanent exhibits telling the story of the last 11,000 years of Cherokee history. It is also a major research archive, and hosts many cultural events throughout the year. The Museum is a center for community artistic endeavors and education, and is the host of the distinguished Cherokee Potters Guild.
Created in collaboration with the community, the presentations feature the words and voices of tribal members. Life-size mannequins in diorama exhibits are startlingly realistic because local Cherokee people volunteered to be models, allowing artists to make casts of their bodies and faces. In the Museum, you’ll hear the Cherokee language spoken, and learn about the beautiful syllabary that was created by Sequoyah and adopted by the Cherokee nation in 1821. The Cherokee language is still in use here on the Qualla Boundary – check out the street signs as you drive around town – and is often spoken in the Snowbird Community to the southwest.
The Museum’s gift shop is a great place to see the work of many local artists; a visit to the Museum and to the nearby Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual and Bigmeet Pottery will give you a good feeling for the breadth and masterful creativity of today’s traditional Cherokee craftspeople. You’ll also find an excellent selection of books in the museum shop. Pick up a couple to make your tour of Cherokee country even richer. The Cherokee Heritage Trails Guide by Barbara Duncan and Brett Riggs is a particularly good resource.
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is located at the intersection of Highway 441 and Drama Road in downtown Cherokee. It opens at 9:00 AM every day, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission to the museum is $9 for adults and $6 for children ages 6 – 13; children younger than 6 may enter for free. There is no charge for visitors who wish simply to visit the museum shop. Call 1-800-497-3481 for more information.
Photo: Bilingual street-signs, Cherokee; photo by Sarah Bryan.
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