History and Folklore






A good way to keep the legacies of the Cherokees in our hearts is by seeing the world of the Cherokee through the eyes of those who know it best. This painting shows a young Cherokee's reaction to reading about the Dawes Commission from the diary of his grandfather, Redbird Smith.

The Dawes Commission was organized in 1893 to accept applications for tribal enrollment between 1899 and 1907. Tribal membership meant qualified Cherokees would get 160 acres of land from the United States Government to call his own for 25 years. The purpose of this was to break down common ownership of land by the tribe.

These enrollment records were eventually published as the Dawes Commission, also known as The Five Civilized Tribes, which consisted of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Tribes.

Between the year 1902 and 1905, the Dawes commission enrolled citizens of the Cherokee Nation for the purpose of allotment and the final dissolution of the Cherokee Nation. The book, And Still The Waters Run by Angie Debo, exposed the greed and corruption in what we have learned was one of the biggest land grabs of the twentieth century. Once the allotments had been made, greedy speculators and politicians set about the business of swindling the unsuspecting Indians out of their property. Within twenty years, 80% of all Indian lands in Oklahoma was in white hands.

Although American citizenship was part of the agreement between the US Government and the Cherokee Nation, many Cherokees did not enroll willingly. Redbird Smith, the image reflected in lamp, was taken in chains to be enrolled at Muskogee. Today, citizenship in the Cherokee Nation is based on the very roll that was meant to do away with the Cherokee forever


"Through Grandfather's Eyes"

A painting depicting the Dawe's
Commission enrollment



Oral histories are an excellent way to hear stories of the past. Here a man tells about his grandfather, who was a Cherokee Indian.


"My grandpa was an Indian."
Aliff, Joe
Hufford, Mary
Archive of Folk Culture,
American Folklife Center,
Library of Congress
Call Number
AFC 1999/008 NRG-MH-A077
Digital ID
afccmns 077010


Click on the button to hear his story.



Other ways to commemorate the legacies of the Cherokees include the preservation of historical sites, collecting pictures and artifacts, and the placement of markers.



Those of us who live in Macon County may have passed it hundreds of times without noticing it or understanding its historical significance. It is just a grassy knoll in the middle of the growing town of Franklin, North Carolina, nestled between businesses and across the street from a tire store. Who would ever guess that it was once the center of the sacred Cherokee town of Nikwasi, that untold numbers of ceremonies had been held there, that a treaty with England was signed there in 1750, and that the mythical Nunnehi people were said to live within it?





Nikwasi Mound today
From the personal collection of
Mary Lynn Duncan
June 16, 2002

Thankfully, the people of Franklin were aware of the legacy of this very special place. In October of 1946, the Indian mound at Franklin was purchased with money from county residents, which included money collected by Macon County school children. The owner, Roy Carpenter, sold it to Franklin for only $1,500, even though he had been offered more than twice that much from businessmen wanting to put a building there. Title to the property was given to the Town of Franklin on behalf of all Macon County residents. It has been preserved as a reminder of the Cherokees' role in the history of Macon County.

In 1981, the Nikwasi Mound was named to the National Register of Historic Places.


Commemorative sign marking the historical
significance of Nikwasi Mound
From the personal collection of
Mary Lynn Duncan
June, 2002



In the late 1990's, a move was underway to set aside a part of Macon County to commemorate the town of Nikwasi. The Little Tennessee River Restoration and Greenway Project began to take form as many people and organizations got on the bandwagon. Today, Phase I of the project is well underway to provide the people of the area with a wonderful place for entertainment and recreation.




Covered bridge on the Greenway
Pictures from the "Little Tennessee River
Restoration and Greenway Project:
The Nikwasi Center"
Photographer unknown


"Nikwasi was the Sacred Town of the Cherokee people who inhabited the Little Tennessee Valley from time immemorial. It was located near the River in present East Franklin, the site still marked by an ancient mound. Here the people gathered from outlying villages for festivals, games and solemn councils. Soon, a new Center will rise nearby. Named Nikwasi in honor of the Valley’s early inhabitants, it will again beckon people from the surrounding hills to gather for festivals, fun and business, for drama, music and dance.

The Site
The Nikwasi Center will occupy a beautiful 26-acre site on the Little Tennessee River, two miles upstream of old Nikwasi, with easy access from US 64/441 Bypass. The Greenway, running beside the river, will connect the Center to downtown Franklin and the Macon County Recreation Park.

The Amphitheater
Nature created an almost-perfect amphitheater on the grounds of the future Nikwasi Center. With a little help, this natural bowl will become an ideal setting for outdoor festivals and trade shows as well as performances, comfortably seating audiences of 500 to 5000 people.

Nature couldn't have found a better spot! Imagine yourself relaxing under the stars, listening to music on a soft summer night while the Little T. flows gently just beyond. Imagine strolling down to the river during intermission or lingering among the gardens of the greenway after a performance."

Excerpt from "Little Tennessee River Restoration and Greenway Project: The Nikwasi Center" 1999-2000



Site of proposed amphitheater
Pictures from the "Little Tennessee River
Restoration and Greenway Project:
The Nikwasi Center"
Photographer unknown



In the old cemetery of St. John's Episcopal Church in Franklin, NC, there is a tombstone memorial to Chief Chuttahsotee and his wife Cunstagih who were buried there in 1878. The two died within 2 days of each other and were buried in the white man's cemetery, but no permanent monument was put over their grave until 1932. At that time, there were still members of the community who remembered the old couple with great respect. Several ladies of the community, Mrs. J. H. Slagle, Mrs. Tom Slagle, Mrs. C. C. Cunningham, and Mrs. Andy Setser joined together to have the marker placed over their graves so that future generations would not forget them. The Franklin Press in the March 10, 1932 edition, called the marker "a reminder of a valued bit of local history and a memorial to a grand old character."






Grave marker for Chief Chuttahsotee
and his wife Cunstagih
From the personal collection of
Mary Lynn Duncan
July 14, 2002

Cherokee Indian Chief Chuttahsotee (Jim Woodpecker) was chief of the Sand Town Indians in the Cartoogechaye area. He was a good friend of many white settlers, including one named Alfred Gillespie. It is said that Alfred once had malaria, and that Chief Chuttahsotee sat up with him for several nights and nursed him back to health. Just before he died, Chief Chuttahsotee presented one of his most prized possessions to Gillespie. It was a nine foot, six inch blowgun made from rivercane. At the time, Alfred Gillespie had a twelve year old daughter named Margaret. She inherited the blowgun from her father when he died.

In 1986, when the blowgun was more than 108 years old, Margaret Gillespie Slagle decided to return the blowgun to the Cherokees out of respect for its historical significance. She met with Robert Youngdeer, Chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, at the grave of Chief Chuttahsotee and his wife Cunstagih to present the blowgun to the Cherokee Nation. It is now displayed at a museum in Fort Loudon, Tennessee.




"Mr. and Mrs. John Bulgin and grandson
Philip Bryant met Monday with Robert
Youngdeer, right, Chief of the Eastern Band
of the Cherokee Indians, to return a blowgun
given to Mrs. Bulgin's great-grandfather by
Chief Chuttahsotee before he died in
1879. They are shown here holding the 9'6"
blowgun at the grave of the chief and his
wife at St. John's Church Cemetery
in Cartoogechaye."
File photograph from

January 9, 1986.



Tsali's Rock is rumored to be the last hiding place of Tsali, a Cherokee who resisted removal on the Trail of Tears. The old legend insists that "Old Charley," as he was known to the whites, willingly gave himself up in order to save his people. In doing so, he became a martyr to his people, and the rock where he took shelter became a place of great importance.

Unfortunately, the story has been pretty much debunked by historians. Here is what is reported to be the real story:

Approximately 500 Cherokee went into hiding to avoid removal on the Trail of Tears, among them Tsali and his family. In 1838, soldiers led by 2nd Lt. A. J. Smith and accompanied by Will Thomas captured 12 members of the Tsali family in the area where Bryson City is now located. As they were being taken through the area near the present Fontana Dam, Tsali's family revolted and escaped, killing two soldiers and injuring another. It was a bloody incident that couldn't be ignored by the U. S. military command.

With the help of the Euchella and Wachacha bands of Cherokees, who were land owners and exempt from removal, the military was able to capture and execute three Tsali family members. Two days later, Tsali himself was captured and executed by the Cherokees near Bryson City where he was hiding out. Tsali's Rock, or "The Charley Rock," is located in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and marks the spot where Tsali either surrendered or was forcibly captured over 165 years ago. Locating the precise site, however, is almost impossible without a guide.


Drawing of Tsali
Artist unknown



Unique among the many tribes living in North America, the Cherokee have a written language. It was created by a Cherokee named Sequoyah (George Gist) in the 1820's. He devoted 20 years of his life to developing a system of writing with eighty-five characters representing every sound in the Cherokee language. By 1827, a Cherokee newspaper, THE PHOENIX, was being circulated throughout the territory. Sequoyah is considered one of the greatest literary geniuses of all time.



Library of Congress
Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Stein, R Conrad
Artist unknown

Not long ago, Cherokee students were not permitted to speak their native language in school. Today, it is not only a required subject in their schools, but it is not uncommon to hear the students conversing in the Cherokee language socially. The language which was almost lost a generation ago is now part of mainstream Cherokee society.


Cherokee alphabet on a postcard


Those who survived the Trail of Tears are known as the Cherokee Nation. Descendants of those who hid in the Great Smoky Mountains or managed to escape and return are called the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. There are now nearly 12,000 members of the Eastern Band, and many live on the Qualla Boundary, also known as the Cherokee Indian Reservation, and consisting of 56,000 acres in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains.


On the Cherokee Indian Reservation, they work hard to preserve their culture and educate visitors and tourists. Two of the most widely known tourist attractions are the Oconaluftee Indian Village , a replica of an 18th century Cherokee community including a 7-sided council house and typical Cherokee homes as they were 250 years ago, and a spectacular outdoor production called "Unto These Hills," beginning with the arrival of Hernando deSoto in 1540 and climaxing with the cruel removal on the "Trail of Tears."


Scene from "Unto These Hills"
Photographer unknown

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian began in 1935 with a collection of artifacts owned by Samuel E. Beck. Today, the museum displays artifacts over 10,000 years old and uses state-of-the-art technology and computer animation to tell the age-old story of the Cherokee.


The Museum of the Cherokee Indian
in Cherokee, North Carolina
Photograph form the personal collection
of Mary Lynn Duncan
July 14, 2002

The craftsman in this picture is Richard Saunooke, a full-blooded Cherokee who tries to keep his heritage and culture alive by demonstrating his skills and producing beautiful work. He specializes in traditional methods of beadwork, quilt work, and hide painting.


Richard Saunooke at the
Museum of the Cherokee
Photograph from the personal collection
of Mary Lynn Duncan
July 14, 2002


Betty was a Cherokee woman and the widowed head of a household of 18 persons. Under the Treaty of 1819, she applied to the Cherokee Indian agent for a reservation where she lived "at Eastertoy on the headwaters of the Little Tennessee River." It appears that Betty's reservation may have straddled the state line. Betty Creek in Macon County is named after her. Betty Creek starts in south Macon, winds its way south, joins other streams, and turns north again as the Little Tennessee River.



This map from the Little Tennessee River
Restoration and Greenway Project shows
Betty Creek as it goes below the present
state line into Georgia west of Dillard.


Six Killer is an interesting old Macon County name. Six Killer was a reservee who received 640 acres under the Treaty of 1817 and 1819. His reservation was located on Burningtown Creek where it is joined by Wildes Creek. At that time, Six Killer was listed as head of a family of six. In 1829, he received $550 for the sale of his reservation, and in 1835 his name appeared on the Smith Census as head of a family of nine in the same area. Descendants of Six Killer still live on Persimmon Creek of the Hiawassee River. In 1856, a store and a community in Burningtown were both called Six Killer.



Whiteside Mountain
Photographer unknown


The Otter Clan lived in the Briartown area. Otter Creek, Otter Gap, and Otter Mountain were named for the Otter Clan. The head of the clan was a Cherokee woman named Jane Otter. Jane Otter Branch and Jane Otter Cove are both named for her.



View of the Smoky Mountains
Photographer unknown

"When the Trail of Tears started in 1838, the mothers of the Cherokee were grieving and crying so much, they were unable to help their children survive the journey. The elders prayed for a sign that would lift the mothers' spirits to give them strength. The next day a beautiful rose began to grow where each of the mother’s tears fell. The rose is white for their tears; a gold center represents the gold taken from Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem for the seven Cherokee clans. The wild Cherokee Rose grows along the route of the Trail of Tears into eastern Oklahoma today."

Source: The Cherokee 1994 Heritage Calendar by Dorothy Sullivan, Memory Circle Studio, Norman, OK.



Picture of the Cherokee Rose
Symbol of the Trail of Tears
Photographer unknown

For more information on Cherokee legacies, visit these web sites:


Sequoyah - Powerful People

Sequoyah of the Tsalagi

Unto These Hills Outdoor Drama/
Oconaluftee Indian Village

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

The Mounds and the Constant Fire

Little Tennessee River Restoration
and Greenway Project

High above Deep Creek, Tsali's Rock
harbors a bit of history




Grade Level 3 - Competency Goal 1.1: Identify uses of technology in the community and how it has changed people's lives.
Grade Level 3 - Competency Goal 1.2: Recognize that the Copyright Law protects what a person, group, or company has created.
Grade Level 3 - Competency Goal 2.1: Identify the technology tools used to collect, analyze, and display data.
Grade Level 3 - Competency Goal 3.4: Evaluate the usefulness of information obtained using telecommunication technologies.
Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 1.1: Identify the ways in which technology has changed the lives of people in North Carolina.

Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 1.2: Identify and understand the differences between non-networked and networked computers.
Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 1.4: Recognize the correct use of copyrighted materials in multimedia projects.
Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 2.1: Use technology tools to collect, analyze, and display data.
Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 2.10: Use search strategies to locate information electronically.

Grade Level 5 - Competency Goal 1.1: Recognize the influence of technology on life in the United States.
Grade Level 5 - Competency Goal 2.1: Use technology tools to collect, analyze, and display data.
Grade Level 5 - Competency Goal 3.3 Select search strategies to obtain information.


Grade Level 3 - Competency Goal 3.03: Use text and own experiences to verify facts, concepts, and ideas.
Grade Level 3 - Competency Goal 3.06: Conduct research for assigned and self-selected projects (with assistance) from a variety of sources.
Grade Level 3 - Competency Goal 4.02: Use oral and written language to: present information in a sequenced, logical manner; discuss; sustain conversation on a topic; share conversation and ideas; recount or narrate, answer open-ended questions.

Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 2.07:Determine usefulness of information and ideas consistent with purpose.
Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 3.05: Integrate information from two or more sources to expand understanding of text.
Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 3.06: Conduct research for assigned and self-selected
projects (with assistance) from a variety of sources through the use of technological and informal tools.
Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 4.10: Use technology as a tool to gather, organize, and present information.
Grade Level 5 - Competency Goal 3.06: Conduct research (with assistance) from a variety of sources for assigned or self-selected projects
Grade Level 5 - Competency Goal 4.10: Use technology as a tool to enhance and/or publish a product.


Grade Level 3 - Competency Goal 2.3: Assess similarities and differences among communities in different times and places.
Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 1.1: Identify, locate, and describe ways of living of the major Native-American groups in North Carolina, past and present.
Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 1.2: Describe the origins and characteristics of major groups that settled in North Carolina and assess their influence on North Carolina customs.
Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 1.3: Analyze similarities and differences among North Carolina's people, past and present.
Grade Level 4 - Competency Goal 5.1: Explain how North Carolinians in the past used, modified, or adapted to the physical environment.
Grade Level 5 - Competency Goal 1.1: Identify, locate, and describe major groups of people, past and present, in the United States, Canada, and Latin America.
Grade Level 5 - Competency Goal 1.3: Assess the role and status of individuals and groups in the United States, Canada, and Latin America.



1. Access to computers with Internet connection
2. Make transportation arrangements and reservations for field trip.

3. Cherokee-English A-B-C by Daniel Pennington

1. Provide instruction or review on Computer/Technology Skills Curriculum Goals as indicated for grade level.
2. Provide students with the background information on this unit in one of four ways:
Print out the lesson from the web site and present to class orally.
Present the lesson to students as a group on computers at computer lab.
Have students go through the lesson individually on class computers
Use a multimedia projector to present the lesson to the total group


1. Take a field trip to Cherokee, North Carolina. Visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and Oconaluftee Indian Village.
2. Locate and listen to an audio entitled "My great-grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee" in the Archive of Folk Culture section of the Library of Congress Digital Library.
1. Learn some of the letters and words from the Cherokee language and illustrate. Use the Cherokee-English A-B-C as a guide.
2. Discuss and/or write about some of the most important things you have learned from this unit.
1. Write a letter to the guest speaker, a guide from the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, or a guide from Oconaluftee Indian Village, telling what you learned from the experience.
2. Summarize the key points of each lesson from this unit.
Write a paper explaining how the study of the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina relates to the influences of the early French settlers in Canada and the Spanish settlers in Latin America. Tell some ways the Native Americans were changed by the presence of the Europeans in each region.
1. Search the existing links for additional information on this unit.
2. Add an additional link to this unit through an Internet search.
3. Use the Internet to make an in-depth report on any aspect of this unit.


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Page designed by: Mary Lynn Duncan

Last update on: 11/17//02