Visiting the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina, allows visitors to learn much more about the Cherokee people than is generally taught in school. This immersive, accurate experience is a must see for anyone wanting to know more about such an important section of American history.
Called a “model for museums” by Disney Imagineering, the museum was established in 1948 in a log building located on the Quall Boundary. The majority of the artifacts located in the museum were originally donated by Samuel Beck, a local businessman from the Cherokee tribe. After a fire devastated the original museum building in 1958, funds were raised, and it was eventually rebuilt in 1976 in its current location. It has also been voted as one of the Top 10 Best museums for the Native American Experience.
The museum offers a variety of permanent exhibits, each designed to help people understand the Cherokee Indians better.
Story of the Cherokee: Learn about the lengthy, 13,000-year history of the tribe. Starting during a time when mastodons roamed the area around the Southern Appalachians and running all the way through the present, the story of the Cherokee is told through a variety of computer created animation and other special effects. The exhibit also makes use of life sized figurines, artwork, and other priceless artifacts.
- Paleo artifacts: Artifacts from the Paleo time period act as proof of how long the Cherokee have been on the land. See some of the stone tools they used as they hunted and foraged.
- Archaic artifacts: As the Cherokee learned and developed, so did their tools. Guests can see some atlatl “points,” which they used to hunt deer after the mastodons went extinct.
- Woodlands: As the people started to live in towns all year round, their rituals and daily life changed. They started using blow guns and bows and arrows to hunt, and gathered together for ceremonies using stone pipes (which can be seen at the museum).
All facilities at the museum are ADA compliant, including the restrooms, store, education wing and exhibits. There are handicapped accessible parking spots located in the front of the museum. Service animals are allowed at the museum as well.
Emissaries of Peace: See the Cherokee world as Henry Timberlake did in 1762, as well as being able to see London the way the Cherokee leaders would have when meeting with King George III during that same time period. See Timberlake’s Memoirs in real life, through archeological treasures, artifacts, music, period artwork, video, and life-sized figurines. Learn how two very different (and contrasting) cultures learned how to make peace with each other in the midst of war. For children, there are graphic panels as well as pop-up books to help them learn at their level.
Trail guides: For guests who want to get out of the museum while still learning about the Cherokee, trail guides (all certified) are welcome and happy to join tour buses, groups, or just larger families as they voyage on the Heritage Trails. Members of the Eastern Band segment of the Cherokee provide guests with stories, directions, legends, and answers to any questions guests may have while visiting the Cherokee homeland.
The Cherokee museum offers a host of year-round special events meant to engage the community and further their mission. They maintain an up to date calendar of their offerings on the website and host many special guest speakers as well as events throughout the year.
One of the largest attended is Cherokee Heritage Day, which happens in September. Come and celebrate Cherokee culture with fiddle music from Cherokee fiddlers Manco Sneed and Tatiana Hargreaves. There is food (one of the favorites is often the Indian fry bread), arts and crafts to take part in and take home, traditional dance presentations, and storytelling.
The museum also offers up a series of courses and workshops for visitors to attend and learn more about the history, language, and culture of the Cherokee people. From a full ten-day immersion course in the Cherokee language to workshops on basket making, pottery, and other skills, guests who want a little more hands on learning have many options.
The gift shop at the museum helps support the mission of the non-profit organization, as at least 75% of their budget comes from sales from both tickets and the museum. They sell a huge variety of Cherokee themed merchandise, including books, decorative items, jewelry, and clothing. Pick up a souvenir from the visit and help support the museum while doing it.
Museum of the Cherokee Indian, PO Box 1599, Cherokee, NC 28719, Phone: 828-497-3481