The Cherokee Heritage Festival is upon us.  For me, this is the start of a fascinating season here in our area.  This particular festival demonstrates dancing and wears from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  It is a great weekend, free to the public and meant for families to mingle and learn.

The Cherokee Heritage is rich in our areas, the good the bad and the ugly, as they say.  At the Cherokee Homestead Exhibit you can walk the Quanassee Path: A Cherokee History Trail celebrating five Cherokee related sites surrounding downtown Hayesville.  At the Cherokee Botanical Sanctuary you can see the plants native to our soil and how they were used for food, shelter, fiber for clothing, rope and baskets, medicine, ceremony, weaponry, tools, home furnishings, light, heat, shelter, transportation and personal adornment.

Cherokee Cultural Center at Moss Regional Library is where the museum is located.  It brings to life the history through Cherokee art, books, and artifacts from the area, historical maps, educational displays, and resources for conducting genealogical searches and accessing electronic collections.

The Cherokee did not have “tribes” as most of us envision them to be.  A “tribe” was made up of seven clans.  These clans are the womens, when children were born, they took their mother’s clan.  Each of these clans had a village in our area and some of the names we use for counties and towns are from those villages.

In 1763 the Cherokees lost all of their territory in North Carolina, east of the 80th longitude line, which runs through Murphy, NC. This was punishment for the Cherokees switching sides in the French and Indian War. The Creeks agreed to give back their recently regained lands in North Carolina and Georgia, in return for most of the land in Alabama, which had been taken from the French by the British. Some small Cherokee settlements such as Choestoe (Rabbit) and Chota (Frog in Creek) returned to the Nottely River Basin.  Nottely Dam was named for the Nottely River. The river itself was named after the Cherokee village of Naduhli, which was once situated along its banks. The village name is derived from Native American word for “daring horseman.”

Chatuge Dam is located 121 miles (195 km) above the mouth of the Hiwassee River, just north of the North Carolina-Georgia state line. Chatuge Lake extends southward for 13 miles (21 km) along the Hiwassee and eastward for roughly 6 miles (9.7 km) along Shooting Creek, which once emptied into the Hiwassee immediately upstream from the dam site. The dam and the North Carolina section of the reservoir are surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest, and the Georgia section of the reservoir is surrounded by the Chattahoochee National ForestHayesville, North Carolina (north of the dam) and Hiawassee, Georgia (to the south) are the nearest communities of note.

The heritage of these proud and resilient people is everywhere around us.  The knowledge we can gain from them is endless.  Take a day off from the everyday.  Spend some time learning about the past, find one thing you can bring forward to use in that everyday life.  Mine will be from the Botanical Sanctuary, a native plant that reminds me of the day.  Next week, I think we will visit Murphy, did you know there was an Army fort there?

Meantime, thanks for spending a few moments with us and as always