Students help build exhibit on historic Cherokee life

Anthropology students at Western Carolina University are experiencing hands-on learning in Clay County through archaeological digs and participation in the ongoing construction of an outdoor museum exhibit that portrays a Cherokee village from 1650 through 1750.

Jane Eastman, WCU anthropology professor and director of the WCU Cherokee Studies Program, and her students have helped develop the outdoor Cherokee Homestead Exhibit, located a couple of blocks from the central square of downtown Hayesville. The exhibit features to-scale replicas of a Cherokee summer house, winter house and corncrib. This is set against the backdrop of a large-scale mural with details of elements of Cherokee life and contemporary metal sculptures referencing the seven Cherokee clans and other symbols of the tribe.  

The connection to Clay County began when Eastman was asked to conduct a field study on the site of a planned housing development near Spike Buck Mound and the Quanassee village archaeological sites in Hayesville. Evidence suggests that the mound and the areas surrounding it were a substantial Cherokee settlement. The development never materialized.

The exhibit is a project of the Clay County Communities Revitalization Association in partnership with the adjacent Clay County Historical and Arts Council Museum.

Members of the Clay County Communities Revitalization Association envision the outdoor Cherokee exhibit and a nearby connector trail now under construction as enhancements to local quality of life and a regional draw for visitors.

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