Meet the Atsila Anotasgi Cultural Specialists at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian1.21.2020
[Pictured above: Lead cultural specialist Mike Crowe demonstartes traditional firemaking]
When you visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian on any given day, you may see a cultural specialist in traditional dress working on a special project, including firemaking, shaping an atlatl (spear thrower), making a leather hunting bag, crafting a blowgun, or demonstrating a traditional dance or game such as chunkey or marbles.
These are the Atsila Anotasgi Cultural Specialists—highly knowledgeable and skilled cultural ambassadors for Cherokee. Their name means “fire builders” in the Cherokee language, and their mission is to share traditional aspects of Cherokee culture. Formerly, the cultural specialists were known as the Cherokee Friends.
Like Building a Fire
“Our hope is that we build on each individual’s knowledge of our Cherokee culture like we are building a fire,” says Dakota Brown, the Program Director for the Atsila Anotasgi Cultural Specialists. “We hope to feed and tend to our guests’ interest in our culture, ensuring that we are providing them with true information about who our people are, and steering them away from stereotypes.”
The group consists of lead cultural specialists Mike Crowe, Jarrett Wildcatt, and Tyra Maney, along with Sarah Thompson, Nola Teesatuskie, and Hayley Keever.
[Pictured below: Lead cultural specialists Mike Crowe and Tyra Maney, with cultural specialist Sarah Thompson]
Sharing the Cherokee Culture
Mike Crowe and Jarrett Wildcatt have been cultural specialists for the museum from the very beginning. Mike is a long-time star of the outdoor drama, Unto These Hills, and one of the original Warriors of Anikituhwa (link to blog). He can trace his family back to the 17th century, which is about as far as anyone can go with Cherokee written record.
Mike is a Cherokee scholar and ethno-historian. He’s passionate about sharing Cherokee culture with the world at large, as well as preserving it for future generations in Cherokee, NC.
“We are focused on seeing these things into the future—our stories, our songs, our dances, our material culture—and that’s really our ultimate goal,” he says.
Jarrett Wildcatt is an artist, storyteller, pottery maker, and musician, and he also performs with the Warriors of AniKituhwa.
Tyra Maney has been a museum employee for many years, and was appointed as a cultural specialist in May 2019. She is a talented artist, proficient in Cherokee history and traditions, and she can write in the Cherokee syllabary.
Special Programing Coming This Spring
Starting in the spring, the group plans to offer online booking for special programming, including workshops for schools or groups.
For more information about the Atsila Anotasgi Cultural Specialists, contact program director Dakota Brown at 828-497-3481 ext 1012, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.