Published On: Thu, Oct 20th, 2011

Cherokee Heritage Festival held in Hayesville



     HAYESVILLE – Clay County’s first annual Cherokee Heritage Festival took place on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Cherokee Heritage Exhibit near the square in Hayesville.  The weather was glorious, and many people turned out to visit demonstrations of Cherokee crafts and discussions of Cherokee history and culture by experts.  The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians generously provided information that serve as the basis of this festival.   EBCI members provided rich insights into their culture.  The exhibit celebrates Clay County’s rich Cherokee heritage and culture.  It offers travelers and students a gateway to Cherokee heritage sites in the region and will boost the economy of Clay County as its existence attracts visitors to the area.

      Presenters included T.J. Holland who spoke about Hiwassee and Valley River towns, Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Diamond Brown who presented Cherokee culture through stories, and Darry Wood who demonstrated dart making and blow guns.  

     During the festival, various artisans demonstrated their crafts.  They included Davy Arch who demonstrated flint knapping and masks, Emma Garrett who demonstrated rivercane baskets, Lucille Lossiah who demonstrated double-weave rivercane baskets, Ramona Lossie and Lucy Teesateskie who also demonstrated rivercane baskets, and Lamar Marshall who answered questions about Cherokee trading trails in front of a large map of the trails.

     The basket weavers demonstrated their craft on a concrete pad that Hayesville resident, Reba Beck, had painted in a beautiful basket-weave pattern. Cindy Curtis of Hayesville filmed the event and will share it  with the Western Carolina University (WCU) Film Department.  WCU is producing a documentary on the development of the Cherokee Heritage Exhibit.  David Sellers also filmed the event for his Art in the Mountains cable show out of Young Harris.

     Scott Ashcraft, who provided extensive insight on the petroglyphic rock art images used on the wall panels of the Exhibit, was present. Kathleen Marks of the Creating New Economies Fund (CNEF) came all the way from Chapel Hill for the event and photographed it.  Darry Wood coordinated arrangements for the basket weavers who demonstrated their crafts. The Junaluska Museum and the Hiwassee-Valley Land Trust (LTLT) sponsored TJ Holland’s talks about the Valley-Hiwassee River Cherokee settlements.

     The Cherokee Homestead Exhibit is a joint effort of Clay County Communities Revitalization Association (CCCRA) and the Clay County Historical and Arts Council (CCHAC). A large number of additional organizations provided support for the project.  They include the following in addition to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians: the NC Rural Center, the Conservation Fund, Clay County Board of Travel and Tourism, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, the N.C. Arts Council, HandMade in America, Walmart, and the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. Rob Bell of Blue Ridge National Heritage Area and Deborah Grant of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation attended the festival.

     Several community groups organized the festival.  They included the Clay County Communities Revitalization Association (CCCRA) and the Clay County Historical and Arts Council (CCHAC).  Clay County’s rich Cherokee heritage has the potential to attract large numbers of visitors to the area during the prime fall leaf season.  A Blue Ridge National Heritage Area grant helped fund the event.  The Blankenship Seed Company provided hay bales for it.  C&H Services provided port-o-lets. Chip Harper with Cub Scout Pack 407 helped by removing the trash and items for recycling on Saturday after the festival.