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Cherokee, North Carolina

A trip to Cherokee is like stepping into the past.  You'll find a nation still linked to ancient customs and traditions that enable them to live in harmony with nature as their ancestors did.

Each year, visitors from across the country and around the world come to discover this enchanted land and to share in the natural mountain beauty the Cherokee have treasured for centuries. 

The 56,000 acre reservation, known as the Qualla Boundary, offers you the rare opportunity to hike, fish, raft and explore the same magnificent region the Cherokee have called home for thousands of years.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Harrah's Cherokee Casino, The Museum of the Cherokee Indian, the outdoor drama "Unto These Hills" and many other attractions all make Cherokee a place that encompasses all the culture and fun you would want a vacation to offer.

Cherokee Early History

The Cherokee Indians first arrived in the Smoky Mountain region in about 1000 A.D. and are believed to have been a breakaway group of New England's Iroquois. By the time European explorers arrived in the New World, seven clans totaling over 25,000 Cherokee ruled lands that now represent parts of eight states. They named the Smoky Mountain area "Shaconage," or "place of blue smoke" and enjoyed a progressively settled existence, relying heavily on agriculture. However, throughout the 1700s and 1800s, the encroachment of European settlers forced many changes in Cherokee life.

Native Language Sequoyah, a Cherokee silversmith, created a remarkable written language for his people in the 1820s. He devised a syllabary of 86 characters to represent every sound made in the Cherokee language. Within two short years, the entire Cherokee nation had adopted the language and become proficient enough to publish their own newspaper, The Cherokee Phoenix. Unfortunately, the Cherokee Phoenix proved to be one of several ill-starred emulations of European settlers' customs, including a constitution, written legal codes and a supreme court.

Trail of Tears

Although the Cherokee did exist peacefully with early settlers, white men's greed for more land eventually forced the Cherokee people from their homelands. The discovery of gold in the mountains of northern Georgia sealed the Cherokees' fate and in 1830, president Andrew Jackson signed the Removal Act, mandating the removal of all native peoples east of the Mississippi River. Of nearly 16,000 Cherokee forced out, only about 12,000 survived the journey to Oklahoma, known as the Trail of Tears. Some Cherokee refused to leave their home, hiding high in the mountains. By 1889 the 56,000-acre Qualla Indian Reservation was chartered in North Carolina to serve as their home. These Cherokee are known as the Eastern Band and continue to populate the reservation today.

Culture & History

Many opportunities exist to explore the Cherokees' rich culture. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian houses many fascinating artifacts, some of which date from 10,000 years ago. At the Oconaluftee Indian Village, visitors can step back in time to an authentic 1750s Cherokee community with working craftsmen and botanical gardens. The Cherokee Museum and Gallery is dedicated to showing special exhibits by native artists and the country's largest selection of handmade Native American arts and crafts can be found at the Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual. Special events, like fishing tournaments, powwows, festivals and more occur throughout the year.

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