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Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina

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The tribe will conduct an archaeological survey of its tribal birthplace before taking bids to develop the tract. Kituwah, often called Ferguson Fields, was the center of Cherokee politics and religion, and site of the main tribal fire. Tradition says Kituwah priests went to Clingmans Dome, a peak now in Tennessee, and received a set of divinely ordained clan law and moral codes from the spirits. The Cherokee lost control of Kituwah during the 1820s. The tribe bought the 309-acre site in Swain County for more than $3 million in 1996. Now, some tribe members want to develop it while others say preserve it. Suggestions have ranged from a cultural center and native gardens to a train depot, walking trails, ceremonial grounds, a golf course or housing. Preliminary survey showed evidence of human habitation on the land. A groundhog unearthed human remains at the site in March. The study is expected to cost more than $400,000, Principal Chief Leon Jones said. The site is of great interest to the federally recognized Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band in Oklahoma. The tribe was divided after the Cherokee were rounded up in 1838 and forced onto the Trail of Tears. The Eastern Band represents descendants of those Cherokee who escaped.