Cherokee is a great day trip from the Valley. As you head out of the valley you will climb to Soco Gap. At that point you can take the Blue Ridge Parkway to its’ end point at the intersection of Cherokee and the National Parks Southern entrance. Cherokee offers a lot to see and do. If the weather is bad outside, you can hit the games at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. A good two hour activity is to tour the Oconaluftee Indian Village. There are museums, gift shops, amusement parks, dining, and more.
Oconaluftee Indian Village
The wood smoke drifting on the breeze isn’t like any you’ve smelled before. It’s not the pure tang of hardwood burned for heat. Nor is it the aroma of a cooking fire, fragrant with baking bread or bubbling broth or roasting meat. There’s something earthy about this fire, because it’s smoldering pitch pine, firing local Cherokee clay into gleaming blackware pottery. Then again, all the sights, sounds, and scents surrounding you today are novel. Here in the Oconaluftee Indian Village, it’s 1750. You’ve been taken back two centuries before your birth, and the old Cherokee ways are alive all around you. Another smoke trail draws you to a shaded clearing where a man is doing … well, it’s not quite clear yet. He seems to be burning the flattened topside of a huge, felled tulip poplar log nearly 40 feet long. Clay is packed around the edge of the log to contain and direct the fire. This log, he explains, will become a ten-man canoe, waterproofed by animal fat and pine resin. It may take six to eight months of burning to fully hollow out the craft, but it will serve the whole village for fishing and voyaging, and will last for generations.
Now you enter the great seven-sided council house, where a third fire glows. It is sacred fire, kept burning to symbolize the strength and unity of the Cherokee people, and used to kindle the fires in every village household. This council house, like those in every Cherokee village, has seven bench-lined sides to seat the seven clans.
In Oconaluftee, you’ll find no separation between art and utility. The flint nappers craft arrowheads with deadly beauty, each sharper than steel, all as singular as snowflakes. The carvers create masks that come alive when danced around a flickering fire, and pipe bowls that please the hand and eye and spirit.
Just as it takes time to craft all these items, so it takes time to appreciate their crafting. And that, in turn, takes being here. Do come. We look forward to sharing our beauty with you.