With winter creeping into our everyday lives again and the bitter cold nights appearing I wonder what those that came before us on this beautiful mountain did to stay warm.
Clothing prior to European arrival was dependent on the materials available and climate. The Cherokee women were very adept at using mulberry bark, it was peeled and pounded into a soft fiber that was woven into leggings, dresses, jackets, and shirts. Before the 1700’s women also wore wrap around skirts made from deer skins. For the men, clothing was more layered. The breechclouts were a basic one-piece of clothing that covered the loins. Breechcloths were often worn with leggings which provided warmth in the winter or protection from sharp branches and undergrowth in wooded areas.
Animal skins were worked into a soft, suede-like material that was durable, warm, and long-lasting. The fabric was then sewn together using animal sinew and porcupine quill-needles. Because our area is literally a rain forest, the Cherokee nations also learned to treat leather to make it waterproof, which was essential for staying warm and dry. Ever wonder why many animal-skin clothing articles are covered in fringe? The design helps pull water off the fabric, so it dries quicker.
When trading began with the settlers a deer was used in the place of money and deerskins were worth a dollar, hence the origin of the dollar’s nickname of a “buck”, a reference to the male deer.
The Cherokee heritage in our area is celebrated and the culture is shared through works such as the Cherokee Homestead Exhibit in Hayesville, NC. There you can see both a summer and a winter home of the Cherokee tribes that called our area home.
The Cherokee people lived in villages. They lived in permanent houses because they weren’t always on the move. They didn’t have to follow herds or move around because of seasons so they stayed in permanent houses. Those who lived in the Georgia region built their villages in river valleys because the river valleys had fertile soil which was good for their farming. The villages were built near a river to give them easy access to water. Most Cherokee peoples had two houses. One of the houses was for summer and the other one was for winter.
The winter house was called an asi. It was dome shaped and partially underground to keep the house warm as possible. Dome shaped houses are very sturdy and living in them protected you from the harsh winds and weather we experience. Building the winter house required large trees, the builders had to put a couple strong posts into the ground. Large pieces of the heart of white oak were woven together from top to bottom. Inside the circle of posts, four large pine trunks were sunk very deep into the ground to form a rectangle. Above the rectangle, a couple long trunks were woven tightly with split saplings. Then the entire roof was covered with over seven inches with a mixture of grass and local clay, to help with the water proofing. In the center the winter house would have a fire.
I encourage everyone that visits our area to gain just a bit of knowledge. Learning how the Cherokee lived in our area can be a fun and rewarding experience.
As always, we thank you for spending just a few moments of your day with us and again we say
Welcome to the Mountains