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Ten thousand years of Cherokee history

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Established in 1946, Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual represents more than 300 Cherokee artists and craftsmen. The gallery features one-of-a-kind beadwork, basketry, carving, weaving, pottery, jewelry, masks, dolls, and more.

Oconaluftee Indian Village and Living History Museum showcases mid-18th-century Cherokee life. Making baskets, pottery, weaving, dugout canoes, and blow guns, as well as carving, flint knapping, and many other handicrafts are demonstrated in this replicated village.

A trip to the Cherokee area will be more enjoyable if the visitor has a grasp of the tribe's history.

The arrival of Europeans, beginning with Hernando De Soto's expedition in 1540, initiated tumultuous times. Along with brutality, theft, and disease came new tools, other manufactured items, and new knowledge. Alliances with the British and with the Americans often led to conflict and betrayal. By the late 1700s, Cherokee territory had shrunk by 75 percent.

The early 19th century brought brighter days. Some Cherokees adopted the ways of the new settlers and became prosperous. A Cherokee named Sequoyah originated a phonetic syllabary of the Cherokee language using 86 symbols, and a bilingual Cherokee newspaper appeared. As they developed a constitution and a national council, an independent Cherokee nation emerged.

But President Andrew Jackson supported the Indian Removal Act, aimed at moving all Indians from the Southeast. It passed in 1830. Despite lobbying aimed at rescinding the legislation, a new treaty was signed in 1835 without authorization from the Cherokee nation.

During 1838 and 1839 a 1,200-mile forced march banished the Cherokees to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). But small groups stayed behind, hiding in the mountains, and others walked back from Oklahoma. Most of the current Eastern Cherokee Band descended from these thousand or so ancestors.

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