Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cherokee spirit

As a side trip one morning, my sister and I left our hotel and ventured about an hour westward to the town of Cherokee, North Carolina. Our destination was the Oconaluftee Indian Village. There, for a couple of hours, we immersed ourselves in the culture of the Cherokee Indians as they lived in the mid-18th century.

Our barefooted guide, who apologized upfront for his "period-inappropriate" sunglasses, took us and a handful of other tourists from one tour stop to the next, explaining at each station what we were seeing. The guide also assured us that we were welcome to take photos, making me a very happy tourist.

We watched demonstrations of cloth weaving...

...basket weaving...

and weapon making...

...and we saw the man pictured above shoot arrows from a blowgun and hit the bullseye three times straight in quick succession.

We watched a tool-making demonstration, too, and were impressed enough that we respectfully refrained from making any comments about "period-inappropriate" C-clamps.

Another demonstration explained the process of making the canoes the Cherokees used.  Though they're called "dugouts," the cores of the long logs were actually burned out.

Several types of traps were on display, and our guide explained how they were used and what types of animals were caught. The Cherokees relied on trapping and hunting for food  and for hides.

At various stops along our walking tour, our guide showed us the types of houses the Cherokees built, log cabins as well as clay structures. We were allowed to go inside each of these houses, where we saw dirt or wood floors, rough-hewn furniture, fireplaces and cooking pots.

The man in the photo directly above was our tour guide. He and many of the young males who were working in the village the day we were there wore their hair in a style that was apparently favored by their ancestors: shaved except for a circle of hair that was grown long and tied at the back of the head.

The young man above wore the most elaborate costume we saw in the Oconaluftee Village. He was the one who sang out (or chanted) the songs when some of the guides and craftspeople gathered at the end of the tour to demonstrate Indian dances for an enthusiastic audience. I especially enjoyed this part of the tour because the dancers themselves appeared to be having such a good time. The dances may have been authentic and appropriate to the time period, but the joyful dancers seemed more like a group of modern-day co-workers, old and young alike, laughing and sharing their favorite part of the workday.

I loved every minute of it.


  1. Oh, it sounds like such an adventure. I would have loved to tag along.

  2. Sister-Three, I think you would love it, although you live in some pretty nice mountains yourself, so you might not have been as impressed with the area as we were.

  3. This looks so interesting. We have many native villages here where they demonstrate how they lived their lives long ago. Each tribe has different cultures; I find them all very impressive! This looks like a great holiday! xx

  4. How interesting! I went to the link about burned-out canoes, it must have been much easier to burn the trunk than chop away at it for hours.

    I'd have liked to see the cloth weaving, always wondered how they did that. Come to think of it, I'd love to see the whole process of cloth making, from carding wool to spinning to weaving.

  5. Janet, the cloth weaving we saw was limited to scarves, sashes and other long, narrow things. I'd love to see more of the weaving process, too, and I've been fascinated with spinning wheels since my fairy tale days.


Your comments might be the very best thing about blogging. I love it when you care enough to share your thoughts here, so go ahead and say what's on your mind.