The treaty of 1721 [refer to part 1: Preserving the Culture: Introduction] between the Cherokee and the British, marked the beginning of the European influence on the Cherokee Culture and the first real challenge to the preservation of the Cherokee culture. This treaty not only introduced new concepts (“boundaries”, “treaties”, “government agents”) but also established an exclusive relationship with the English.
In ancient times, the Cherokee culture was preserved and passed on to each generation through ceremony and oral stories. It was an informal process that incorporated changes slowly and naturally over the ages. Cultures change as new generations bring new ideas and new interpretations to old traditions. Cultures are influenced by their neighbors, by changing climate, by changing food sources, by war, and by changing political influences.
Today, we have but hints and whispers of the ancient Cherokee culture. So much has vanished under the influence of the European explorers, colonists, and the formation of the new European-American governments. The pressures and influences of this foreign culture forced the Cherokee to examine what had once been a natural progression and introduced the conscious effort of “preserving the culture”.
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.