- North Carolina
Western North Carolina is the traditional homeland of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
The Cherokee people are holding tightly to traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation, and I was intrigued to learn more, just as you can. Everyone is welcome to find out about the Cherokee heritage and culture.
Oconaluftee Indian Village: Art and Culture Come to Life
I love to be immersed in the true identity of a place, and at the Oconaluftee Indian Village, you will find an authentic way to learn from the Cherokee people. I took time to explore this purpose-built village that replicates the way in which the Cherokee tribe lived. It’s really quite amazing how the Cherokee tribe used natural resources from the earth to build villages and settlements. There is also an abundance of demonstrations from the Cherokee, who captivated me with everything from basket weaving to beadwork and pottery.
I have always loved picking up souvenirs on my travels, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed at the Oconaluftee Indian Village store. The gift shop at this village is stocked with so many beautiful handmade products. I brought home some kitchen ware, decorative art and symbolic jewelery.
Dreamcatchers in Oconaluftee Indian Village store in Cherokee
Elk Spotting in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Cherokee is nothing short of magical, shrouded within an ancient historic landscape that includes the Great Smoky Mountains, home to the rare and often hard-to-spot elk. I was lucky enough to tour through these mountains with two members of this sovereign nation, Chris and Bear.
With my guides, I hopped into an SUV and took to the winding mountain roads. It wasn’t long before we found a herd of elk roaming the paths. With some covert action, I was able to get some great photos and let them continue on their way. I even met a lone female elk who was grazing while her calf enjoyed the privacy of the high grasses and warm North Carolina sun.
Unto These Hills: Retelling the Story of the Cherokee
The Cherokee people preserve their legacy with stories that have been passed down for years and years. I heard that one way to really get a glimpse into the history of these people was by watching “Unto These Hills,” a moving outdoor drama at the Mountainside Theatre, a grand coliseum-style amphitheater.
Talented actors immerse the viewer in centuries of Cherokee history and legend. The real essence of what it means to be Cherokee is depicted in this play, which uses music and acting to tell an exhilarating tale of love, war, betrayal and hope. It was an evening I will never forget.
Outdoor drama "Unto These Hills" at Mountainside Theatre in Cherokee
Entertainment in Luxury
No holiday is complete without the ideal place to stay. Of the many options available in Cherokee, I chose the opulent Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort for this trip. I was only a stone’s throw away from restaurants, bars, gaming center, and a swimming pool and spa. This modern, vibrant and upscale mountain-view casino and hotel is loaded with state-of-the art amenities, but it still keeps to its roots with an array of original and traditional Cherokee art.
My trip to Cherokee left an imprint on my heart and soul. The natural beauty of an almost untouched land supports a community keeping alive what it means to be Cherokee. Marry that with delightful stores, nature trails and a resort and you really will be enthralled.
Grounds of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina