Saturday, April 28, 2012
Cherokee, North Carolina
Cherokee is the gateway town to Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina. Cherokee is within the Qualla Reservation and is home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.
Tribal leaders, in an effort to pass on the Cherokee heritage to the younger generations, label street signs and many buildings both in English and the Cherokee language.
Like many Indian Reservations, Cherokee has a casino which is a popular place for many visitors to the community. Profits are passed on to the members of the tribe. It is probably the largest employer in town, as well.
Being a gateway community, naturally much of the revenue comes from tourism. Driving through town creates a mix of emotions. There are many of the old motels from the 50s; most have been renovated but some haven’t and are essentially an eyesore. Also left over from decades ago are the “attractions”--live bears and live Indians. Much of the Indian stuff seems to cater to our mental image of the Native American--a plains Indian in long feathered headdress, teepees, and bison. The Cherokee really weren’t like that and I don’t get why they depict themselves as such. Money, I suppose.
There is a “tourist” section off the main highway with the tee-shirt and souvenir shops and, of course, ice cream and fudge. There is also a Cherokee museum. We haven’t been in there, but the building and grounds look nice from the outside. There is also a gallery for local artists to sell their handmade crafts and works of art. We were in there a couple years ago and there are some truly beautiful pieces.
One of the greatest accomplishments of the Cherokee was the development of a written language by Sequoyah. One of the greatest tragedies of the Cherokee was their forced removal by Andrew Jackson. The Cherokee who are here today are descendants of those few who were able to escape removal.
We’ve been driving into Cherokee every afternoon to check our phone messages, e-mail, and to post the blog. Usually, we stop just inside the reservation at the Transit Center, but occasionally we’ll drive across town to the McDonalds. We’ve only gone to the Dairy Queen once for ice cream after a hike.
That’s it for today. Thanks for tagging along.