A Review of Cultural Heritage in 2015

2015 was another exciting and productive year for Wild South’s Cultural Heritage Department.

In March, Wild South received a grant from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina to continue our cultural heritage work for another year. In November, we received an additional grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. Our work would not be possible without the support of these organizations.

IMG_7390This past year, our team photographed historical Cherokee records at several institutions, including the NC State Archives in Raleigh, the National Archives and Records Administration at Atlanta, and Houghton and Lamont Libraries at Harvard University.

To date, Wild South has collected over 115,000 digital images of historical documents, photographs, and maps related to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). These images, which are being used for genealogical and historical research, are stored in digital collections at the Qualla Boundary Public Library and EBCI Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO).

The department also continued mapping historical Cherokee trails on public lands. Alongside interns and volunteers, we observed historical trails “on the ground” by hiking, bushwhacking, photographing, and documenting the trails. We began creating a master trail inventory of all historical trails and roads in Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests that will be completed in 2016.

IMG_4090In addition to being part of the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership, Wild South Staff met with THPO representatives and N-P Forest Service Archaeologists several times to discuss cultural corridor research and the protection of cultural resources in the new Forest Management Plan revision. In December, we submitted comments to the Forest Service regarding the cultural/historical significance of proposed Wild and Scenic Rivers and Wilderness areas.

In 2015, we revamped the Cherokee Journey website (http://cherokee.wildsouth.org), migrating the old site to a more accessible WordPress platform. Cultural Heritage Director Lamar Marshall’s newest research on historical Cherokee ecology was added to the site. We also began researching ways that we can incorporate geographic information system (GIS) technology into historical trail research and the Cherokee Journey site.

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This past year, the department participated in several outreach events, programs, and educational lectures, including the Seventh Annual Traditional Cherokee Fish Harvest Workshop, Project Discovery AMP Summer Program, and the Swain Stem Discovery Summer Camp. Cultural Heritage educational exhibits were displayed at The Greening up the Mountains Festival, the Cherokee Indian Fair, Big Ivy Heritage Day, and at the Qualla Boundary Public Library. Lectures were given to audiences at Red Clay State Park, Tellico Wild, the 5th Annual Cherokee Archaeology Symposium, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for Native American Heritage Month.

The Cultural Heritage Department is looking forward to new projects in 2016 and continued partnerships with local communities and organizations to protect and preserve the cultural landscape of western North Carolina and surrounding areas.

By Paige A. Tester, Cultural Heritage Coordinator, Wild South