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Nikwasi story told in traveling Smithsonian exhibit

Nikwasi story told in traveling Smithsonian exhibit

The history of the Nikwasi Mound in Franklin will soon be part of a Smithsonian Museum traveling exhibit that will tour around the U.S.

“While the Native American story is often told (albeit frequently inaccurately), it is rarely told in its relationship to the settler story. The link between these two populations is bound across the centuries. It is a connection that needs nurturing and must be shared to all people of our country in order to create the intercultural understanding that will awaken relationships and friendships,” said Elaine Eisenbraun, executive director of Nikwasi Initiative. “As our nation navigates the tenuous path of cultural awakening, this is the kind of story that will help people to recognize that we are all caring human beings, only we travel with diverse experiences.”

The local story of how the Nikwasi Mound deed transferred hands from the town of Franklin to the Nikwasi Initiative nonprofit will be featured in the all-new, SPARK! Places of Innovation traveling museum. Noquisiyi story has been selected to be one of two featured stories out of 30 total. The museum is scheduled to travel for six years, stopping in 24 states and 144 communities. 

“The eminent museum has taken notice of the unique merits displayed in teamwork by individuals from Franklin and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to resolve past intercultural misunderstanding, especially after the herbicide incident at Noquisiyi (Nikwasi) Mound in 2012,” Eisenbraun said in a press release. “What an opportunity for our region.” 

This is exactly the kind of recognition the Nikwasi Initiative hoped to garner when it took over ownership from the town in 2018 — a process that was controversial because the town held the deed for the mound since the 1940s when it was nearly demolished by developers. 

“I’m very proud to see our communities recognized for building bridges and partnerships. Through the “SPARK! Places of Innovation” project we can be a role model for the entire nation,” said Bob McCollum, co-chair of Nikwasi Initiative. 

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Noquisiyi has witnessed the ‘burning out’ of Native people several times by British and Americans to make room for settlers. It was confiscated along with other property at Native American Removal in 1838. Then a systematic spraying of herbicide across the mound killed all the living plants on the site and provoked long-buried tensions. But sometimes, disaster leads to new solutions. It is this story and the ongoing work to honor this storied site that will travel around the country.

“This is unprecedented outreach for Franklin, Cherokee and Noquisiyi. It opens the door for local groups and individuals to understand the value of investing in the new Cultural District,” Eisenbraun said. “This creates the window for all local people to get behind the ongoing efforts at Noquisiyi. It will bring more resilient tourism and economic advancement to our region. Additionally, the program creates opportunities for school teachers to help students communicate with other rural towns, track the museum journey, or study a unique collaboration of local people working together to impart positive change.”

For more information about Nikwasi Initiative, visit

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1 comment

  • I visited the mound many years ago and was just broken hearted at the sight of it, nothing but retail businesses all around it, nothing to tell it’s history or importance to the Cherokee people. It was like our people, neglected, surrounded by descendants of settlers to the land, I lifted prayers that it would be returned and protected from further harm that day. Needless to say, I was overjoyed at the town relinquishing “ownership” of it

    posted by Beverly Broadhead Carson

    Thursday, 12/16/2021

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