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Cherokee delegation visits Colonial Williamsburg

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Colonial Williamsburg guests have a special opportunity to immerse themselves in Native American culture during “At the Camp of the Cherokees,” a new program presented Saturday and Sunday, May 9-10 on Market Square.

Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokees demonstrate and share their cultural history, Native trades and the art of 18th century diplomacy as part of Colonial Williamsburg’s American Indian Initiative in partnership with the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the Cherokee Historical Association.

Native delegations – officially regarded as emissaries of sovereign nations – travelled to 18th century Williamsburg regularly for diplomatic negotiations about trade and alliances. A 1751 issue of the Virginia Gazette reported “…they met in the evening at the Camp of the Cherokees; where making a large Fire, they danced around it, and concluded the Evening with Harmony and Cheerfulness.”

At times there were dozens of Cherokee men and women visiting the city and living in accommodations that included temporary camps of military tents issued from the Magazine, a storehouse for armaments for the colony’s militia. The camps served as places for the native emissaries to rest, cook their meals, practice native trades, repair pack baskets and moccasins, and enjoy camaraderie.

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Guests can visit the Cherokee camp on Market Square 9:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. and 2 – 4:45 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Sunday to explore the world of Williamsburg’s 18th century Indian visitors.

“The Cherokee encampment is the result of several years of building relationships and cooperation between Colonial Williamsburg and the Eastern Band’s cultural partners,” said Buck Woodard, manager of the American Indian Initiative for Colonial Williamsburg’s department of public history. “This event focuses on presenting the Native population as strong and sovereign nations, treated as equals by both the British crown and, later, the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

“Primary documentation, accounts and other evidence of nearly 20 Native delegations in 18th century Williamsburg is surprisingly plentiful,” said Jim Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation. “That historical record allows us to faithfully re-create those visits in their historical location.”