Appalachian Cultural Resources Workshop Papers
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Contemporary arts and crafts among the Eastern Cherokee include basketry, wood carving, stone carving, beadwork, and pottery. The history of these traditions can be traced to pre-European times, and these crafts have been passed on from generation to generation. Today, several hundred Cherokees derive all or part of their income from craftwork. The Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual has done much to promote and market the work of local craftsman. It is one of the most successful Indian owned and operated craft cooperatives in the country. The strength of a proud heritage combined with the demand for Cherokee crafts nationwide will insure that the ancient traditions will be continued for many generations among the Cherokee people.


The Museum of the Cherokee Indian houses a vast collection of archaeological and ethnographic materials, primarily dealing with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Today, approximately seven thousand Cherokee are living in western North Carolina. The museum is designed to maintain the native culture and language of the local community, as well as to provide an information center and learning experience for the general public.


Archeological—most of the museum collections consist of archaeological materials from the original Cherokee territory. The collections are donated to the museum, and in some cases they are on loan. The museum does not purchase artifacts from any source.


The museum's innovative displays and audio-visual exhibits that provide a unique opportunity to relive Cherokee history and share the experiences of Cherokee culture. Cherokee oral traditions is the subjects of the first displays in the museum. Sacred Cherokee myths which survive today have been handed down from one generation to the next. The visitor learns about the importance of the Sun in Cherokee life and how, according to tradition, it was set a seven handbreadths above the earth at the beginning of time. The ancient sacred stories of the forming of the earth, the origin of the mountains and valleys, the first fire, the origin of the Milky Way and the plants and animals come alive with the aid of modern technology.


Outreach Service—the museum has an outreach service that lectures to school groups and other organizations upon request. This program is limited only to a one hundred-mile radius.

Special Events

Annual Cherokee Heritage Art Show—this art show features work by various artists, including many Cherokee artists, and all work is for sale. It is displayed in the museum galleries. Prizes are awarded in six categories and the show is on display from October 1 through October 31.

Research Facilities

Archives—the archives includes fourteen hundred published volumes and collections of manuscripts, photographs, and microfilms. The archives is open to interested persons by appointment only.


The annual museum membership fee of fifteen dollars entitles members to free admission to the museum and to research privileges upon request. Members also receive one free issue of the Journal of Cherokee Studies.

Journal of Cherokee Studies

The journal is published annually and contains scholarly articles pertaining exclusively to the Cherokee Indian.


The first Cherokee Museum was founded in 1948 as a means of educating the public. A group of tribal leaders acquired an old log building at the intersection of U.S. Highway 41 and 19. Local Indian and non-Indian residents donated the first artifacts and relics. Through the years, interest in the museum continued, promoted principally by Mr. Carol White and the Board of Trustees of the Cherokee Historical Association. The establishment of the museum was prompted by a growing awareness that the general public knew very little about Cherokee culture. Conditioned by the distortions of the media—especially "westerns" as well as the "chiefs" that were beginning to appear in front of craftshops in the village—the visiting public tended to perceive the Cherokee in terms of war bonnets, tomahawks, and wigwams.

As the tribal leaders watched the burgeoning tourist-oriented business on the Reservation, they became determined that some means must be established by which the public would be able to develop and awareness of, and appreciation for, the history, culture, and traditions of the Cherokee Indians. The museum became that means. From its modest beginnings in 1948, the Board of Directors established a priority goal: to depict the history, culture, and tradition of the Cherokee Indians with integrity and authenticity. In 1952, the Cherokee Historical Association was established and immediately acknowledged the development of the museum to be its primary objective. The museum acquired a Cherokee curator and lecturer, Mise Owle. For the next sixteen years, he lectured the public on the little-known aspects of Cherokee culture: herbal medicine, Sequoyah and the Cherokee alphabet, and authentic cultural aspects such as clothing, food, farming, and recreation. The museum received non-profit, tax-exempt status in 1970. In 1975 a new facility was constructed.

On August 17, 1992, the ground was broken to begin an expansion project which will improve the services provided. The museum areas which will be enlarged are the giftshop, art gallery, framing department, and area for general storage of artifacts. A new traveling exhibit/conference room will be added. Also, there are plans to include an outdoor pre-contact homestead exhibit which will have live demonstrations when weather permits. The tentative completion date is set for June 1993.

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Last Updated: 30-Sep-2008