Our first visit to this area was in the early 1990s. We had driven to Clingman's Dome and curious as to what lay on the other side of the great mountain range, we continued on. I remember little of what we discovered was a reservation. Just a teepee on the side of the road and a shop where my husband purchased a knife he still uses. Minutes later, we left and for the first time, drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which begins on Hwy 441 just south of the Smokies.
Over a decade later, we moved back to South Carolina, and as I had during our first residency in that state, I devoured as much history as I could.
Years later--just a month ago--I downloaded The History of the Upper County of South Carolina by John H. Logan. In it, Logan mentions several Indian nations, but he focuses on the Cherokee in particular, painting them not as the mystical people they're too often viewed as today, but as people. Noble and strong, but as people who went about their business in a way different to what the settlers were accustomed. An astute and beautiful people, who, among other tasks, hunted and fished, built structures from logs, and "who made gloves and shoes" from the hides of panther. People who wronged and were wronged. Who routinely slaughtered and who were slaughtered. Of everything I had read to date, Logan (and at times Bartram, who Logan quotes) put a face on the Cherokee people.
Suddenly, Cherokee was everywhere: in my readings, in recent news articles, and featured on various This Day in North Carolina History posts. So when I extended our upcoming vacation to Bryson City by a day, I booked a room in Cherokee.
Cherokee is ideally located at the southern boundary of both the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and it's one of the gateways to Bryson City. The people of Cherokee invite you to visit the Oconaluftee Village, where descendants of those who escaped the Trail of Tears present the Cherokee way of life as it was hundreds of years ago. The outdoor drama, Unto these Hills, presents their heartache of the Trail of Tears. You'll also find a golf course, fishing, and Mingo and Soco Falls.
Cherokee welcomes visitors. They invite people to come and enjoy this beautiful region they call home, to learn about their heritage and to know at the end of the day, this is still the land of the Cherokee.
A big shout out to Tanya for her assistance on this trip, and for the great conversations we had about the Cherokee.