Mike Crowe: Preserving Cherokee Culture with the Cherokee Friends10.18.2016
Visiting Cherokee, NC, is so much more than experiencing local attractions and taking in the views of beautiful Smoky Mountains. It’s an opportunity to connect with Cherokee people, hear their stories, learn their history, and gain greater insight into their culture and traditions. One group, called Cherokee Friends, is helping to make this all possible.
The Cherokee Friends are tribal members who are experts in their culture and history. The group is made up of Mike Crowe, Sonny Ledford, Jarret Wildcatt, and Richard Saunooke, and together they specialize in storytelling, oral history, historical Native American dress, and traditional Cherokee song and dance.
Enhancing the Cherokee Experience
Funded by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and based out of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, the Cherokee Friends have a mission to enhance visitor experience in Cherokee through education and by demonstrating traditional aspects of Cherokee culture. The Cherokee Friends can be found outside the Museum as weather permits, or in the lobby. Demonstrations are varied and can include firemaking, the atlatl (spear thrower), the chunkey game, traditional dance, and the marbles game.
A Family Legacy
Mike Crowe (pictured above) is one of the Friends and manager of the Cherokee Friends program, which is in its fifth year. For Crowe, his work as a cultural specialist for Cherokee is of the utmost importance.
He can trace his Crowe family lineage back to the 17th century, which he says is “about as early as anyone in Cherokee can go, as far as written record is concerned.” With a gentle laugh, he adds, “We’re pretty well established here, in this area.”
Preserving and Perpetuating Cherokee Culture
In addition to learning Cherokee culture and history from his family, Mike spent 12 years working at the Oconaluftee Indian Village, where he honed his knowledge of Cherokee history and culture from elders like Davy Arch. Mike has also performed different lead roles in the outdoor drama, Unto These Hills, since 2006.
“I’ve devoted the better part of my adult life to the perpetuation and preservation of the culture,” he says.
For Mike, sharing his Cherokee culture and history with visitors is an important responsibility.
“Having a better understanding of people can create systemic change, in my mind. That’s one reason why, to me, it’s important to educate the world at large. But, of course, even more so, it’s important to educate ourselves here, locally. Preserving the culture and passing these traditions—our ways, our stories, our songs, our dances, our material culture—down to the future generations.”
“We’re focused on seeing these things into the future,” he says. “And that’s really our ultimate goal.”
(Cherokee Friends Sonny Ledford, left, and Mike Crowe, right.)
Exclusive Programs with The Cherokee Friends
Book the Cherokee Friends for an exclusive program as part of the “Cherokee Experience”—workshops combining academic and experiential learning that can be designed specifically for your school or group. For an additional fee, they can provide a one-hour program for your group, including: Dance, Music, Storytelling, Primitive Skills, Flint Knapping, and hands-on Craft workshops. For more information, please contact box office manager Charla Reed at 828-497-3481 ext 1003, or Cherokee Friends manager Mike Crowe Jr. at 828.497.3481 ext 1001.