Major development planned for Qualla Community

Last week, the Jackson County Planning Board reviewed plans for a major subdivision in the Qualla Township on the northern end of the county. The planning board is tasked with reviewing subdivision plans before the process can continue toward approval.

Jackson allocates funds for parks projects

This month, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners took the next steps toward capital improvement and construction projects for parks in Qualla/Whittier and Cashiers.

Proposal would give Qualla area 24-hour ambulance

Harris Regional Hospital Emergency Medical Services is asking the Jackson County Commissioners to make changes to its service that would cost about $200,000 to implement.

FBI raids Qualla Housing Authority

A team of 26 FBI agents descended on Cherokee Feb. 2, filling the Qualla Housing Authority building and wheeling entire filing cabinets, as well as papers and hard drives, into a U-Haul parked to the side of the building.

Two arrested for arson in Qualla wildfires

Two Cherokee men have been arrested in connection with wildfires set on the Qualla Boundary this fall. 

Cell tower companies eye Jackson

jacksonAn application to build a new cell tower in Cashiers is back on the table, after the company, Crown Castle, yanked its original request in June.

Open Air Indian Art Market celebrates 10 years

art frBringing together Cherokee artisans and tourists from every corner of the globe, the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual celebrated a decade last Saturday of presenting their Labor Day weekend Open Air Indian Art Market. 

Jackson eyes possibility of new liquor stores in Cashiers, Qualla

On the heels of a vote that now allows alcoholic beverages to be sold countywide, Jackson County is considering opening two new ABC stores: one in Cashiers and the other along the highway leading to Cherokee in the Qualla community.

County commissioners indicated at a meeting this week they’d likely form a committee to determine whether opening either of the ABC stores was financially feasible.

Tribe hopes to fund Cherokee as foreign language class in public schools

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is urging the state to formally license Cherokee language teachers, enabling Cherokee courses taught in public schools off the reservation to count toward a student’s foreign language requirement.

Earlier this month, tribal and school officials met with representatives from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to finalize the steps in the process.

The move is part of tribe’s push to revitalize the language and preserve the Eastern Band’s cultural identity.

“Salvaging the language salvages our tribe. It continues to identify us as a unique people, and it continues to protect the sovereignty of who we are as a nation within a nation,” said Principal Chief Michell Hicks.

The tribe’s language efforts include everything from street signs in Cherokee to language emersion programs for infants — as well as required Cherokee language classes for grades K-12 school on the reservation.

However, not all enrolled members of the tribe live in Cherokee and attend school on the reservation, so the tribe hopes to offer language courses in public schools in neighboring counties as well.

Cherokee language and history classes are currently taught in the public schools in Graham County, where a small satellite portion of the reservation lies. The tribe foots the bill for the instructors’ salaries, but the classes do not fulfill the state’s language requirements.

By creating a teacher certification test that meets the standards of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, the tribe hopes to get Cherokee included on Department of Public Instruction’s list of languages for study.

“We want the language to be recognized and credit to be given in all North Carolina schools,” Hicks said. “Right now in Swain County, you can get credit in Spanish and Chinese but not in Cherokee. That’s what we want to change.”

Dr. Hartwell Francis, chair of Western Carolina University’s Cherokee language program, has taken the lead role in creating a teacher certification test that meets ACTFL as well as state education standards. The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma went through a similar process and has proven a useful model for Francis to draw from.

Renissa Walker, director of the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program, which oversees the tribe’s language revitalization efforts, said the Eastern Band feels it’s important for the tribe to develop and administer the test themselves.

“We want to maintain ownership of the test,” Walker said.

Walker has helped organize a panel of fluent Cherokee speakers who will be trained by ACTFL and DIP to administer and grade the tests for language teachers. Once that is done, the tribe will start the work of testing its first round of 25 or more Cherokee language teachers, most of whom speak Cherokee as a second language.

Walker said the tribe hopes to have the certification process wrapped up by the end of the school year.

But there is another hurdle in the process: the status of the Cherokee language in American culture. DPI considers Cherokee a foreign language for administrative purposes, but the tribe objects to the classification.

“We’re not a foreign language like the other languages taught in the high schools,” Walker said. “It’s ironic that the oldest language in North Carolina would be the last one to get recognized by the schools.”

Walker said the tribe doesn’t blame the state, however.

“It’s not their fault. The responsibility lies on our shoulders. We’ve been aggressive over the past five years, but if we’d started this process 20 years ago, there would be fluent speakers of child-bearing age today,” Walker said.

Swain County schools have expressed interest in introducing a certified Cherokee language program in the future, and they’ll offer a language and history course this coming year that’s similar to the one offered in Graham County.

Hicks said the tribe would pay the salaries of Cherokee teachers in neighboring counties where a critical mass of enrolled members go to school once the state has approved the teacher certification process.

Walker said her department is working to get the project finished by the start of the new school year.

“We’re moving quickly,” Walker said. “The fall is our goal.”

Once the certification test is created and approved and an oversight panel is created, the process will have to be verified by a state specialist in education research methodology before being submitted for final approval to N.C. DPI.

Qualla’s art goes worldwide

Known for its legendary craftsmanship, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. just launched its new website, For the first time, art collectors from around the world can view online what is said to be the largest collection of Cherokee art.

The website is a treasure trove of information about traditional and contemporary Cherokee art, and features extensive and detailed information about member artists, their work, techniques and the Mutual’s fascinating history.

“Launching the website was the next step in the cooperative’s progression so that we remain a leading vehicle for Cherokee art,” said Yona Wade, outreach coordinator at Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. “We can truly offer our members a worldwide opportunity to showcase their work, and art collectors have a new way to view and learn about Cherokee’s legendary craftsmanship.”

Founded in 1946 to secure fair prices and provide a year-round market for Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian artisans, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. is the nation’s oldest and leading arts and crafts cooperative. It has approximately 300 members who create baskets, pottery, wood and stone carved sculpture, beadwork, fine art paintings and more for display and purchase at the co-op. Many member artists work with age-old, traditional techniques and materials, while others experiment with new methods and abstract forms.

Entry to Qualla Mutual is a juried process and is restricted to enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The purity and simplicity of ancient and contemporary Cherokee arts and crafts on display in the co-op’s gallery have attracted collectors from around the world. Free gallery tours are available Thursdays through Sundays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. through Aug. 29. Qualla Mutual also offers appraisal and repair services; and for more information about these services, call 828.497.3103.

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