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Cherokee Heritage Center
Tahlequah, OK

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Cherokee Heritage Ctr.

Malia's Notes: on
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I took a day trip to the Cherokee Heritage Center while I was staying at Tenkiller State Park. The brochure said it featured the nationally acclaimed Trail of Tears Exhibit and was the place to learn about Cherokee traditions through an interpretive experience. I couldn't pass that up as I've always been fascinated with the Indian culture and their viewpoints on life and nature.

Jenny and Rachel demonstrated their basket making skills and told us about the different materials used, how the baskets were decorated and dyed, as well as their uses.
Rachel was our guide through the Ancient Village and also showed us how the pottery was made and decorated.
She told us about how village life was before European contact. The Cherokees were not nomadic and they always settled near water, which was their lifeline. Families had separate small summer and winter houses, built to protect against the weather. The houses were used only to sleep in, as all other village activity took place outdoors. We were surprised at how cool this summer house felt on the inside on such a warm summer day.
This is a winter house. It was ingeniously constructed to gather and hold in the heat.
The Council House was where village business was conducted and all decisions were made. The structure is seven-sided, corresponding with the seven clans that all villages consisted of. There were also two separate chiefs - a peace chief and a war chief.
The Adams Corner Rural Village is a reconstruction of a typical Cherokee community following their forced removal to the Oklahoma area.
Rachel was a delightful guide, showing us one way of hunting used - the blowgun. She told me she was so happy in her job here, getting to meet people from all over and sharing her culture with them. I felt honored to hug her after the tour.
There were so many other interesting things Rachel shared with us - the box turtle shells filled with river rocks the woman tied to their legs to accompany the songs since it was job to keep the rhythm - how the canoes were made - the two things that make Cherokee baskets unique and easily identifiable - the differences in the arrowheads made according to their intended use - the game used to settle disputes without having to resort to war - the names of the seven clans and their "specialties." I highly recommend a visit here to find out about these and other fascinating accounts of this generous culture.
There are nice shaded picnic tables on the grounds surrounding the museum, parking and turnaround areas are available for RVs and all paths are wheelchair accessible.
Malia's 2 cents: I was deeply moved by the Trail of Tears exhibit in the museum. Broken promises and treaties resulted in the forced removal of these people from their ancestral home in such a cruel way that an untold number of refugees died in the march. One account from an unidentified survivor brought tears to my eyes: "Lots die every day and we go on... we bury and march. I will laugh no more while living, but when new land is reached in the skies and all my people meet me again, then...I will make joyful laugh."

Location: 21192 S. Keeler; Park Hill, OK (follow signs to Talequah).
From I-40: Exit 297 to SR-82 for 33 miles, then 4 miles on US-62 (SR-10).
From Tenkiller State Park: SR-100 (SR-82) for 30 miles
Phone: (918) 456-6165
E mail: info@cherokeeheritage.org

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