Nestled in a thick forest, the Cherokee Heritage Center showcases Cherokee culture and history. A short, pleasant drive brings you to the shady parking lot with the Cherokee National Museum to the left and the Diligwa–1710 Cherokee Village–to the right. Three brick columns rise up from a beautiful fountain in front of the Museum to remind us that this was once the site of the Cherokee Female Seminary. Your first stop is inside the Museum which houses The Trail of Tears exhibit, Trail of Tears Art Show, Museum Store, and Archives.
No snapshots are allowed in the Trail of Tears exhibit, but here is picture from the museum website of the statues in the exhibit. As stated on the website, “Working in conjunction with the National Parks Services, the Cherokee Heritage Center is proud to permanently house this exhibit which explores the forced removal of our ancestors from their indigenous territory to the “Indian Territory”, present day Oklahoma. The exhibit is staged in six galleries, each of which, through documentation and artifacts, concentrates on specific aspects of Cherokee history and culture.
- Pre-Removal: Cherokee life before the Trail of Tears
- Court Battles: Events and legal issues leading up to forced removal
- Prisoners With No Crime: Imprisoned in Stockades before the Trail
- Many Tribes, Many Trails: The USA’s forced removal of other indigenous tribes
- Removal: Geographical route of and events along the Trail of Tears
- Starting Over: Rebuilding our Nation from scratch: our ability to adapt, thrive and excel”
The Trail of Tears exhibit is entered from and exits into the nice Museum gift shop where you can also sign up for a tour of the Cherokee Village. While you are waiting for the next tour, you should explore the Adams Corner exhibit behind the Museum. Adams Corner replicates Cherokee life in the 1890’s through a self-guided tour of seven reconstructed buildings filled with authentic artifacts and illuminating placards.
Want to research your Cherokee heritage? Ask to visit the Archives. The Cherokee Heritage Center Archives keeps valuable records of the Cherokee People and makes them available to the public.
Next, you will want to take a tour of the reconstructed Cherokee Village of Diligwa. The village is an authentic Cherokee experience based on life in the early 1700s. It includes eight residential sites, each with a Cherokee summer house and winter house, a corn crib, and outdoor kitchen.
The public complex consists of a summer council pavilion and the primary council house overlooking a large plaza that served as the center of community activity. In addition, two recreation areas featuring a marble field and stickball field showcase the Cherokee games that are still played today.
Here you are able to witness daily life while guided through the interpretive stations where crafts are demonstrated, stories are told, and Cherokee lifeways are explained. We will go into more detail about the Cherokee lifeways portrayed in the village in upcoming articles. [watch a short overview of the village]