For thousands of years, the Cherokee thrived in ᏙᎩᏯᏍᏗ (To Ki Ya Sdi), “the place where they race,” or Asheville, as it is known today. Despite centuries of oppression, exploitation and genocide, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) remains a cornerstone of Western North Carolina culture. In 2022, several cultural initiatives will pull forward the often-overlooked story of how the Cherokee influenced and continue to shape the culture of Southern Appalachia.
- Exhibit: Cherokee Artists Honor Language Through Art: The Cherokee Syllabary is a system of writing invented by Sequoyah in the early 1800s. Cherokee people embraced the new “talking leaves” as a form of communication, documentation and resistance. Today, with their language critically endangered due to a dwindling number of native speakers, Cherokee artists are waging an extraordinary battle to retain their heritage. A Living Language: Cherokee Syllabary and Contemporary Art at the Asheville Art Museum features over 50 artworks by more than 30 Cherokee artists. A partnership with the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, A Living Language runs through March 14, 2022.
- Exhibit: Adapting Ancient Cultural Practices to a Changing World: Weaving Across Time — Contemporary Cherokee Basket Making, Land, and Identity features a recent resurgence of contemporary EBCI artists who are creatively building on a centuries-old practice of basket making. A landmark exhibit at Asheville’s Center for Craft — the only national organization dedicated to preserving, curating and advancing the field of craft — Weaving Across Time features nine basket artists who sustainably harvest, prepare, dye and weave with materials found throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their creative practice is intricately connected to the land — land that has been stolen, extracted and depleted. Development and climate change continue to threaten these environments. In the face of these conditions, generations of Cherokee have adapted their cultural practices, developing innovative designs and evolving traditions. Weaving Across Time runs through April 22, 2022.
- Immersive Public Art Experience | The Basket | Building Cultural Understanding: The Basket is many things. A work of public art. A “parklet” in the middle of downtown Asheville. A celebration of traditional Cherokee craft and an invitation for cultural understanding. Opening in 2022, The Basket is a joint venture between the Center for Craft and artist ᎺᎵ ᏔᎻᏏᏂ Mary Thompson. The Basket will occupy about 750 square feet streetside on Broadway in downtown Asheville. Inspired by ancient Cherokee basketry, the art parklet will provide people a space to gather outdoors, commune with family, friends and even strangers, and learn about the contributions of Cherokee culture to contemporary Asheville.
- INTERACTIVE RESOURCE: Learn the history of Cherokee land grabs in Western North Carolina with “As Long as the Grass Shall Grow”: Drew Reisinger, the Buncombe County Register of Deeds, in collaboration with the EBCI, recently made news with an unprecedented acknowledgement that the land on which Asheville sits “was acquired through violence, oppression, coercion and broken treaties.” As Long as the Grass Shall Grow is an interactive digital webpage featuring maps and source documents that tells a difficult, yet necessary, story about the true history of Buncombe County. Land agreements between the Anigiduwagi (Cherokee) and American invaders stated that treaties were to last “as long as the grass shall grow and the sun will shine.” Instead, illegal land grabs forced the Cherokee off ancestral land in an expulsion known as the Trail of Tears. A LIVING LEGACY: Many of the EBCI who currently live on the Qualla Boundary (8,000 acres of land that the Cherokee bought back from American colonizers) are descendants of the small group of survivors who hid in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains, escaping the Trail of Tears and maintaining a foothold in their ancestral land.
- LOCAL EXPERT | ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ Trey Adcock, Ph.D.: Dr. Trey Adcock is a member of the Cherokee Nation and director of American Indian and indigenous studies at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Dr. Adcock is an expert in Cherokee history and culture and has been published in numerous academic journals and publications (see his story about Indigenous Peoples Day and The Basket public art parklet). He also plays the traditional Cherokee sport of stickball for the Wa Le La Hummingbird team.
Want more 2022 news? Click here to view 22 (and then some!) transformational travel stories for the year ahead. Beyond the “what’s new” factor are the ever-inspiring histories, untold stories and trailblazers leading the way in this lively mountain city.