Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina


Band members are divided over proposals to develop a 309-acre tract in Swain County considered the birthplace of the Cherokee. Also interested are the other two federally recognized Cherokee, the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band, both in Oklahoma. Kituwah, often called Ferguson Fields, was once the center of Cherokee politics and religion, and the site of the main tribal fire. Tradition holds that priests from Kituwah traveled to Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains and received a set of divinely ordained clan law and moral codes from the spirits. The priests gave the codes to the people, which became known as the "Kituwah Way." The Cherokees lost control of Kituwah during the 1820s, after which the land became a dairy farm with a grass airstrip, but purchased the land in 1996 for more than $3 million. Some tribal members want to develop the land; others to preserve it. A 1997 archaeological survey of Kituwah found an early 18th-century village site covering 65 acres with a significant density of artifacts which indicates a long period of settlement and the virtual certainty of human burials. Jim Henson, chief of the 6,000-member United Keetoowah Band, visited the site and hopes the band will decide to preserve it.