Experience the Oconaluftee Indian Village and See the New Blacksmith Shop4.17.2018
Cherokee culture is rich and resilient and there’s no better way to experience it than by visiting the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, NC. Modeled after a Cherokee village from the 16th to 18th centuries, the Village is an immersive living history experience that transports you back in time. A cultural guide in period clothing will greet you as you arrive and take you through live demonstrations, including beadwork, finger weaving, pottery, wood carving, basket making, and weaponry stations.
Watch closely as Cherokee artists demonstrate their ancient craft right in front of you. Learn the history and cultural significance of each stop from your personal tour guide. Questions are encouraged, from kids and adults alike, to help guests gain a deeper understanding of the ancient Cherokee way of life, and the traditions that are still carried on today.
A Living, Breathing Replica of Cherokee Life
As Laura Blythe, Cherokee Historical Association Program Director points out, the Village offers a unique hands-on experience.
“You can walk through a museum and read about the exhibits, but you can’t touch the artifacts. At the Oconaluftee Indian Village, you can pick up the objects demonstrated by our Cherokee artisans, ask questions, take pictures, film demonstrations, and learn how we survived for so long and what makes us continue to move forward.”
“The Village is a living, breathing replica of Cherokee life, from pre-contact all the way to how we adjusted and adapted once settlers were introduced to the area.”
The Oconaluftee Village is naturally welcoming. “It’s peaceful,” says Laura. Guests can enjoy the natural beauty of the four-acre property and sit by a running stream as the aromatic smell of smoke wafts through the air. Towering old growth trees provide shade from the sun, and you can hear the happy chatter of birds. In the warmer months, rhododendron flowers burst open in reds, pinks, and whites. It’s a beautiful place to be.
Explore Traditional Cherokee Dwellings
In addition to the the craft stations, you may explore traditional Cherokee dwellings, including a 16th-century clay home with an elevated thatched roof to allow smoke from a center fire to escape from the house. After contact with settlers, the Cherokee people began trading for metal tools and started building log homes. The 18th-century log dwelling at the Village has a porch and an interior loft for sleeping quarters that could fit 6-10 family members.
By the late 18th century, during the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, many Cherokee homes were destroyed and had to be rebuilt quickly. You’ll see an example of this type of period dwelling where logs were notched and placed together with a clay mixture made with animal hair and straw. Inside, a drying rack demonstrates a method of preserving food for the winter.
An example of a sweat house shows a space that was once used as an early hospital, by the village Medicine Man. When a person was sick they would be laid on one of the benches and an herbal tea would be poured over heated stones in the middle of the room. The Cherokee had a cure for every sickness and disease known until the introduction of smallpox by settlers.
A New Fully Operational Blacksmith Shop
New to the Oconaluftee Village this year is a fully operational blacksmith shop circa the 1800s in Cherokee. On May 5, a ribbon cutting for the blacksmith shop will take place on the botanical trail at noon. This addition was made possible by a grant from the IMLS, and has been two years in development.
Before settlers, the Cherokee had copperwork, but post-contact, they learned silversmith and blacksmith work. One of the notable smiths in the Cherokee culture is Sequoyah (read all about Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee Syllabary.). At the Village, the blacksmiths will demonstrate the types of small metal tools the Cherokee made to do impression work on copper, as well as how they made nails and knives and forged tomahawks. Down the road, visitors will have a chance to purchase some of these items made on-site in the Village gift store.
Due to the heat, the blacksmith shop will be open in the morning only, from about 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. The shop is enclosed to contain any flying sparks, but there’s a window where guests outside can ask questions of the artists. A huge handmade set of bellows by William Rogers, a notable blacksmith out of Phoenix, AZ, who trained the Village blacksmithing staff, is operated by a large lever that blows on the fire in the forge, keeping it hot and ready for the blacksmiths to put the iron in the fire and hammer away.
Plan Your Visit
Hours of Operation: Open from April 30, 2018, until November 11, 2018, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with tours every 15 minutes except from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The Oconaluftee Indian Village is closed on Sunday. Arts and crafts classes for children are held daily Monday through Saturday. Check with the box office for times and prices.
Where: 218 Drama Road, Cherokee, NC.
Tickets: Purchase tickets here.
Questions? Call 828.497,2111