The past meets the present for the Cherokee Indians when you visit the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, North Carolina. The Oconaluftee Village reflects both the peaceful quality and the hardships endured for the Cherokee life in the mid-1700’s, which was a period of great change for them. This was the New World period; a time when European influence brought goods such as metal tools, guns and liquor; a time when the Indians no longer could live in peace because of the European settlers taking their land. Life changed permanently for many tribes of American Indians.
From 1838 to 1839, the Cherokee Indians were removed from northeast Georgia and relocated to Oklahoma when gold was discovered in Georgia. This was known as the “Trail of Tears”. Nearby the village, they have an outdoor play, called “Unto These Hills” that begins in June 18th and ending August 18th. It depicts the tragedy of the Trail of Tears. Those Indians that were able to escape this destiny, joined the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians where they now remain strong as a dynamic community today in Cherokee, North Carolina. This part of Cherokee is an Indian reservation whereby they have their own schools and own political offices.
The Villages public historians are Eastern Band members and they demonstrate the ancient arts and crafts including basketry, beading, woodwork, building construction, and pottery, along with hunting techniques. You can see how they made their blow guns for hunting small animals to their animal traps for larger animals, like bear. It’s actually amazing to see how advanced their technology was and how they used the land for their medicines and survival.
There are many shops to see. However, my advice would be to shop at the Qalla Arts Center across from the Museum. Ninety-five percent of the profits go to the Cherokee people. In the Qalla Art center you can purchase many of their trades, some that are collectibles. When you go outside this area to buy souvenirs, beware that many things are not made by the Cherokees, but comes from China.
They also have Harrah’s Casino in the town. We were told that the profits from the Casino help provide revenue for the Indian reservation.
This was for my husband and I the first visit to Cherokee, North Carolina. We were coming from our vacation home in Dahlonega, Georgia which was two hours away. On the way to Cherokee, we had to pass through scenic Bryson, NC. Here you can partake in some Whitewater rafting, with or without a guide. In addition to this, one of the best barbeque places to eat is in Bryson. It’s called Bar-B-Q Wagon. They specialize in hickory smoke barbeque which is made on the spot. So, it’s pretty hard not to stop and get some food when you smell the aroma as you approach it.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time. However, one thing we will have to do when we return which will be this Summer, is the Smokey Mountain Train Ride. This is a scenic train ride through the Smokey Mountains. They have several packages of train rides to choose from including a mystery dinner ride.
We took away from this experience a feeling of an understanding about our American Indian brothers and sisters that we never had in any history books. The information from the Cherokee Point of view concerning their history was extremely interesting and educational. If you want a more complete understanding of the American Indian, then the Oconaluftee Indian Village is a must see.