Museum of the Cherokee Indian of North Carolina
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian takes visitors all the way back to the beginnings of human existence here in these glorious, storied mountains of western North Carolina. The museum provides an educational and interactive experience where concise, chronological stories retrace the 11,000 year documented history of the Cherokees.
In fact, virtual Cherokee storytellers welcome you and serve as your guides to this interactive museum experience, offering a friendly link between the Cherokee saga and your own growing interest in the fascinating details. You begin by hearing ancient Cherokee myths in the Story Lodge, including the story of the Cherokees’ Adam and Eve, Kanati and Selu, who lived very near where you stand as you take in the tale. You hear how the water beetle, Dayaunishi, brought up mud from under water to form the earth, and how the great buzzard shaped the Great Smoky Mountains with his wings.
In the Paleo and Archaic periods, you learn how the ancestors of today’s Cherokees prevailed against a climate much harsher than ours and game animals that outweighed their spear-throwing hunters by 80 to one. You see ancient yet purposeful 'atlatls,' the devices that gave these spear-throwers the leverage and speed to vault to the top of the food chain.
Through the Archaic and Woodland periods, you can see the growth of sophistication. As the people developed agriculture, cultivating plants such as marsh elder, lambs quarter, sunflowers, and squash and gourds, they gained leisure that they used in part to make the objects of daily life more decorative and elegant. You meet an impressive chieftain, hear about the origins of Cherokee medicine, and learn about the sacred festivals some still observe today. Want a test of skill? Try your hand at the centuries-old butter bean game.
The story becomes poignant when European explorers and settlers first trickle and then pour into North America. You will meet some of the best-known Cherokees, and learn of their heroic efforts to preserve their beloved tribe, land and way of life.
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is a museum with a difference. Several, actually. For one thing, it’s not a museum where a ‘we’ group talks about a ‘them’ group. This is a Museum in which the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians present themselves and their history according to their own firsthand point of view. For another, it’s a museum where some of the most modern technology, computer-generated imagery, and special effects are used to present some of the oldest technologies in existence, as embodied by the most extensive collection of Cherokee artifacts anywhere.
The Archives contain material pertaining to the Cherokee:
- four thousand books (some quite old and rare)
- one thousand black and white photographs from the 1880s and 1930s
- manuscript materials c. 1830present
- William H. Thomas Collection–papers and diaries from 1834–1899
- nine hundred reels of microfilm of documents from foreign archives
- some original material in the Cherokee syllabary
The Archives have become a major research center on the Cherokee. The Archives are open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Museum members and qualified scholars may conduct research free of charge. Please make an appointment at least a week in advance with Archivist James "Bo" Taylor.
"Craft Revival: Shaping Western North Carolina Past and Present"
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is a Heritage Partner with the Craft Revival Project, a cooperative research effort under the auspices of Hunter Library at Western Carolina University and funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Craft Revival was a great resurgence in crafts production during the late 19th and early 20th centuries that took place in the Appalachian Mountains, much of it in Western North Carolina. In an effort to document and tell the story of the Craft Revival, the Craft Revival Project has collected, digitized, and organized images of historical documents and craft objects for use on its website and online database. To study the photos, go to the http://craftrevival.wcu.edu/
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian does not provide research on genealogy. Many people claim a Cherokee ancestor from the Removal era, about 1830. To trace Cherokee ancestry, we recommend the following resources and individuals who will conduct research for you for a fee.
Membership in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is closed except to those eighteen years of age or under who can prove that they have an ancestor on the Baker Roll of 1924 and who can prove that they are at least 1/16th Cherokee by blood. The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma has their own rolls and requirements, as does the United Ketoowah Band. Both are federally recognized tribes.