Saturday, July 7, 2012



At the Oconaluftee Indian Village women demonstrate belt and sash weaving

 The Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, North Carolina is one of the best staffed rebuild villages or towns that I have visited.  Staffed by Cherokees Indians who are descendents of the group that resisted the move to Indian Territory by hiding in the mountains and arranging a special deal to stay in the area, they have reconstructed a very realistic replication of a Cherokee village from the late 1700s and early 1800s.  Although not very large it is heavily staffed with re-enactors who play their roles well. 

 We started our visit with a tour of the handcrafts and arts of the Cherokee as they have been done for hundreds of years.  A guide led tour starts every fifteen minutes, and it took us 40 minutes to visit the shops where these original crafts were being demonstrated.  At each point two or three workers chatted with us and explained what they were doing: we visited weavers, bead workers, mask and other utensils carved out of wood, basket makers, and arrow chippers.  The baskets are made from local wood and reeds and are expensive, 150 dollars for a small one, 300 for a larger one. These were definitely not made in China prices. The arrow maker also demonstrated his skills with a blow gun that he made out of reeds.  

 Following the craft tour we were turned free to visit the various exhibits at our own speed.  Each building or display had a staff member to answer questions and make explanations.  For example one man was making a canoe out of a giant tree by burning and then chopping the ashes out.  The best presentation was of family life and war by a woman in the Council House where the business of the village took place.

A weapon’s maker demonstrates a blow gun

 A novel addition to the attraction is an on going story about a situation that almost ruined the relations between the English and the Cherokees.  Lt. Henry Timberlake was negotiating with them when a party of British Soldiers were spotted doing things they should not. We see this event re-enacted.  An hour later we go to the square where a battle takes place where the three English soldiers and their Inidan companion are killed.  Timberlake is taken by the Cherokees to the council hut where he will be tried for misleading the tribe.  An hour later we are the council house to see him tried and by clever detective work by the local trader is found not guilty since the supposedly English soldiers were French soldier sent to cause trouble. 

Lt. Henry Timberlake is informed some of the British troops are causing trouble in the area

The village is on a reservation so we were in Cherokee territory.   The Cherokee land owners rent their land so that outsides can run businesses in the area.  Most of the business we saw in the area was for the tourist’s trade, motels, restaurants, and gift shops and white water raft businesses.  The casino business is good and Harrods takes 52 percent of the profit and Cherokees get 48 percent that essentially pays for schools, hospitals, police and other services that most of us pay taxes for.  When the casino came in 1947 the government stopped its support of those services.  As a result the Cherokees now teach their own language both oral and written and expose their children to their history as a people.

 Next to the village is a botanical garden that has plaques on trees and plants explaining what kind of tea could be made to cure which kind of illnesses.  Many of the teas seemed to be to treat different kinds of stomach disorders.  An herb garden is also along the walking tour.  The Cherokee medicine men claimed to have found a cure for everything except smallpox. 

 A Cherokee warrior turns a log into a canoe

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