Keywords: Sequoyah Birthplace Museum eastern band of cherokee indians Tennessee Indian museum Cherokee culture native american museums in TN Vonore Tenn Cherokee sites Chota Tanasi Fort Loudoun State Historic Area Tellico Lake Project Little Tennessee River Valley Overhill Cherokee Tuskegee cherokee history indian history
VONORE - Members of the Cherokee Tribal Council visited Vonore Monday to learn more about their heritage on the Tennessee side of the mountains.
Council members spent the morning learning about the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
During the afternoon, they toured other local Cherokee sites including Chota, Tanasi and Fort Loudoun State Historic Area.
Tribal council member Rick Panther said did not know the Sequoyah Museum was in Vonore until they began planning the meeting. “Pretty and peaceful,” were the words he used to describe the museum setting on Tellico Lake.
“The beauty in your land is everywhere you turn,” Vice Chief Carroll Crowe said during his first visit to the museum. Crowe said he appreciated the opportunity to see and walk in some of the places his ancestors had been.
“As one wise person once said, if you don’t know where you’ve been how can you know where you’re going,” author Wilma Dykeman said.
“This helps us learn where we’ve all been.”
Dykeman serves on the museum’s board of directors.
Born out of the controversy of the Tellico Lake Project, the museum is a tribute to Sequoyah and the Overhill Cherokee who lived in the Little Tennessee River Valley.
Sequoyah, inventor of the Cherokee alphabet, was born in the Cherokee village of Tuskegee, near present-day Fort Loudoun.
Tuskegee and other former Cherokee villages were flooded by the creation of Tellico Lake.
The Tennesee Valley Authority worked with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to open the museum. The museum is believed to be Tennessee’s only tribally owned attraction.
“I feel comfortable here and I appreciate that,” said Chief Leon Jones, who attended the museum opening in 1986. “This is a beautiful place. There’s a lot of history here.”
The tribal council chose East Tennessee as the location of its annual workshop. They will be touring several Cherokee related sites and wrap up the week in Kingsport.
“We wanted to become familiar with some of the history here,” said Jones. “We’re not as up to date as we should be.”
Board chairman Max Ramsey welcomed the tribal council saying, “We thank you very much for being here. We haven’t had an opportunity like this in a long time for you to get to know this side of your heritage.”
During a morning of presentations, the tribal council learned how the musuem operates and plans for expansion.
Museum board member Bill Willis outlined the museum’s long-range goals for the 60-acre site including the re-creation of a Cherokee village, an environmental education program, and a shoreline trail.
“The potential here is so great,” he said. “We want this to become a destination.”
Other projects under consideration are completion of the amphitheater, an upgrade of current museum exhibits and construction of a two-story museum addition to house rotating displays and an area for educational workshops.
For more information about the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, call 884-6246.
Mia Rhodarmer can be reached at 337-7101 or by e-mail at [email protected]