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Museum celebrates education, Cherokee culture


The Museum of the Cherokee Indian will be celebrating the old and the new June 11 and 12. The museum’s new Education and Research Center will be dedicated June 11 at 3 p.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony and demonstrations of its purpose.

Centuries-old Cherokee traditions will be celebrated June 12 at the Cherokee Voices Festival from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. The public is invited free of charge to enjoy traditional dance performances by the Warriors of AniKituwha, Raven Rock Dancers, Cherokee Childrens’ Dancers, and others, as well as day-long storytelling, music, food, tours, and craft demonstrations.

“We are happy to have received support for this long-awaited project,” said Ken Blankenship, executive director of the museum since 1986. “This space enables us to carry out the museum’s mission and expand our programs to accommodate more educational programs for the public and for the Cherokee community.”

The new wing includes an Archives Collections room and public reading room, a multi-purpose classroom, art studio, art courtyard, and offices. The 8,500-square-foot wing cost more than $2 million, and was made possible by gifts from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Preservation Foundation, and individual donors. The museum’s educational programming is supported in part by the North Carolina Arts Council.

During the ribbon cutting, demonstrations of the new space will be underway. These will include pottery in the Art Studio, basket making in the courtyard, and more. In addition, staff will demonstrate the digital, online libraries now available to the public. These include a catalog of all the museum’s holdings – more than 25,000 records. Digital libraries include: Trail of Tears original research (12,000 pages), The Ray Kinsland collection (6,000 pages and photos), the Documenting Endangered Languages collection (2,500 pages of Cherokee language materials from the 1880s), and the museum’s photo collection (more than 2,000 images.)These projects were sponsored by the National Park Service, Cherokee Preservation Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Cherokee Voices Festival features Cherokee traditions as they have been passed down for generations. These authentic traditions are still practiced within families and the community, in the mountains where Cherokee people have lived for millennia. This festival provides a rare opportunity to meet Cherokee elders who are the respected tradition bearers for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, North Carolina’s only federally recognized tribe.

Visitors can talk with Cherokee people and see the process of making pottery, baskets, bows and arrows, blowguns, masks, wood carvings, and more. Cherokee traditional food will be available from Harvey and David’s on-site. In honor of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th anniversary, special Cherokee Heritage Trails Tours will run at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Cherokee guides will tell the stories and legends where they occurred along the parkway. The North Carolina Arts Council sponsors this festival and designates the museum as a Primary Arts Organization for the state.

For more information, or to see digital libraries visit The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is located at the intersection of Highway 441 and Drama Road in Cherokee, N.C. It is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Extended summer hours began Memorial Day weekend. For more information call (828) 497-3481.