Macon Airport runway extension faces more questions

Macon County Airport Authority members are confident their application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is moving forward, but the project may still face significant procedural hurdles.

The airport is planning a 600-foot extension of its runway. In order to re-route a creek in its path, it needs approval from the Army Corp to impact five acres of wetlands and 800 linear feet of stream. The airport authority applied for a permit last fall, but in early January, Army Corp regulatory specialist Lori Beckwith put the project on hold.

At an airport authority meeting last week (Feb. 23), the project’s engineer, Eric Rysdon of W.K. Dickson, said he had addressed the concerns posed by the Army Corps.

Beckwith’s letter informed the authority that its permit application could not be reviewed because it failed to address a number of concerns raised by everyone from federal agencies to private citizens concerned about its impact. The letter also said the Environmental Assessment included in the application was out of date and that the information provided was “inadequate for us to evaluate the proposed project” and assess its impacts.

The authority was given 30 days to respond. In the letter, Beckwith emphasized the volume of public comment that had poured in — 37 letters and emails, most of them against the runway extension. She also stressed the importance of responding specifically to concerns raised by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

While the authority said last week that it had responded to Beckwith’s concerns with a report prepared by Rysdon, the report itself was not been made available for public review.

The authority’s attorney, Franklin Mayor Joe Collins, released a statement saying the report would remain private until Beckwith returns from personal leave on March 9.

“The Authority feels it inappropriate to make public the report until such time as Ms. Beckwith has had the opportunity to review it. The report is very positive and favorable to the project, and the Authority is anxious for its public release at the earliest appropriate time,” Collins’ letter read.

The future of the runway extension project hinges on the Army Corp allowing the airport to re-route the stream.

Under the Clean Water Act, a project must show that it is choosing the “least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.”

Beckwith’s letter asked the Macon County Airport Authority to address all the concerns expressed by entities opposed to the project, but she also asked for a clarification of the project’s purpose.

“In addition to responding to the comments detailed in this letter, please describe any off-site alternatives you considered and explain why these are or are not practicable and clarify the applicant’s main purpose for the project (safety or economic development) and any secondary purpose,” the letter stated.

The airport authority has received heavy criticism for the way it has shared information about the runway expansion project with the public.

Olga Pader, a member of the Save Iotla Valley group, has been an outspoken critic of the project and sees Beckwith’s concerns as a justification of the criticism expressed by the Iotla community.

“What’s interesting to me is the questions the Army Corps of Engineers were asking are similar to the questions we as citizens have been asking all along,” Pader said.

Pader believes the underlying motivation for the runway extension is a misguided economic development program that would adversely affect the Iotla Valley.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s expressed concerns that “multiple federally threatened and endangered species and federally designated critical habitats” downstream of the project could be affected. Meanwhile, the Cherokee voiced concern that the impacts to the ancestral graves and the presence of a historic Cherokee trading path were not properly evaluated.

Should the permit get rejected, the runway project may need to pursue an Environmental Impact Study, a much longer procedural process that could involve more federal oversight and public hearing requirements as it moves forward.

Duke, Cherokee meeting opens dialogue over Kituwah site

After a day of discussions between the leadership of Duke Energy and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the dispute over the construction of a proposed power substation near the tribe’s most sacred site remains unresolved.

Last Wednesday (Feb. 17) Brett Carter, President of Duke Energy Carolinas, led a delegation to the EBCI Council House to meet with members of the tribal council and Principal Chief Michell Hicks. The meeting was billed as a closed-door discussion between leadership of the two entities, but before it began a group of demonstrators expressing support for the tribe’s leadership was invited inside.

What followed was, according to participants, a formal and orchestrated dialogue in which Carter expressed his regret that Duke Energy had not consulted with the tribe before beginning the site preparation for the substation. But while Duke has admitted to poor communication and expressed a willingness to pursue mitigation of the visual impact of their project, they have also continued to work on preparing the site for construction.

“The work that’s going on at the site is grading and prep work, and that work is going to continue,” said Duke spokesperson Jason Walls.

While the tribe wants to see the substation moved to another tract, Duke asserts the visual impacts can be mitigated.

After the discussion between Carter and the members of the Tribal Council had finished, the council allowed a series of questions from the audience. Some were probing and others impassioned, but all of the tribal members who showed up wanted to make it clear visual mitigation wasn’t enough; they wanted the substation and line upgrade project moved off the hill.

Natalie Smith, a tribal member and Cherokee business owner who helped organize the demonstration, said she was grateful to the council for inviting them into the dialogue.

“You can’t do this here,” Smith said. “That was the bigger message.”

Chief Hicks also invited members of the Swain County board to the table. Swain County Commissioner David Monteith was not impressed with Duke’s communication with the leadership of the county or the tribe.

“I think they treated Swain County like a left-handed stepchild,” Monteith said. “Professional courtesy from a company of the size of Duke with a project that large would at least tell you to talk to the commissioners.”

George Wickliffe, a chief of the Oklahoma Cherokee United Keetoowah Band, sat in on the meeting, too.

“Kituwah is well documented as our Mother Town and due to its history, not only through such documentation, but orally and as a part of our religious tradition, is like the Garden of Eden to the Christian,” said Wickliffe.

After the meeting, Hicks said the tribe had already identified areas that could be used as alternative sites for the substation, but he wouldn’t comment on whether any definite alternatives had already been discussed.

“We’re still working on what our options are,” Hicks said. “I think they were sincere about the failure to notify us of the project. As far as negotiating, we won’t know until we see what options they present.”

Hicks said over the next two weeks Duke would submit plans to minimize the visual impact of their project, and the EBCI would offer Duke options for moving the site off the hillside.

Walls called the meeting “productive” and said Duke “left with a commitment to work on additional mitigation to minimize the visual impact” of the project.

Report shows Duke considered impact on Kituwah

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the company’s proposed substation, Duke Energy representatives claimed they were unaware of the project’s potential impact on the Cherokee’s most valued site.

But Russ Townsend, historic preservation officer for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, isn’t so sure. Townsend received an archeological report that Duke conducted on the site of the substation in 2008.

“It basically clarified that Duke did know all of these things they were saying they weren’t aware of,” Townsend said. “That was disappointing. They’re not required by law to consult with me, but they’ve always said they wanted to be a good neighbor.”

Archeologically, the substation project’s interference with Kituwah presents an interesting dilemma.

The EBCI bought 309 acres around the mound site in 1996, and an archeological survey the following year discovered a 65-acre village site that confirmed a long term of settlement. The mound site and the surrounding village are listed separately on the federal register of historic places.

The mound, 170 feet in diameter and five feet tall, formed the base for the council house where the Cherokee conducted some of their most sacred ceremonies.

The Duke substation project is taking place on a surrounding hillside that is not owned by the tribe. Duke considers the project an upgrade of an existing line, and therefore is not bound to a public vetting process that would involve consulting with state historic preservation officials. The substation site covers a 300 by 300 foot square, and its structures will be 40-feet high.

But the Cherokee have argued the project directly threatens the integrity of the Kituwah site.

Tom Belt, who teaches Cherokee language and culture at Western Carolina University, explained that the concept of the Kituwah mothertown for the Cherokee would encompass the entire area within a day’s walk of the council house. Belt said the actual valley and its mountains play crucial roles in spiritual ceremonies held on the solstices and in the cosmology that support the tribe’s clan structure.

“On those days if you stand at the mound where the council house was, the very place the light hits first is on the seven peaks on that mountain where the substation will be built,” Belt said.

Townsend said the archeological report filed by Duke confirmed there were 15 important sites within a mile of the substation project, and two nationally registered sites within a half mile. Townsend said there are likely no artifacts left in the ground in the area, but the report, conducted by a private firm, leaves little doubt about its archeological significance.

“It’s my professional opinion that this is really a true adverse impact to Kituwah,” Townsend said. “It’s not just a site on a hill we don’t want developed.”

Duke Energy president agrees to meet with Cherokee chief

A disagreement over Duke Energy’s placement of a power substation near Cherokee’s most significant cultural site has instigated a meeting between the top leaders of the tribe and the company.

Principal Chief Michell Hicks, the tribal council, and the attorney general of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are set to meet with Duke Energy Carolinas President James Rogers behind closed doors on Wednesday (Feb. 17) to discuss the issue.

Hicks said he wanted to wait until after the meeting to discuss whether negotiations would involve visual mitigation of the substation or moving the project entirely.

“We want the land protected, and we want the viewshed protected,” Hicks said. “I don’t know where they’re at. Until I sit down with the president and hear where they’re coming from, I don’t want to comment on that.”

The ECBI owns a 309-acre Kituwah mound site, which was historically the tribe’s spiritual and political center. But it does not own the surrounding hillsides where the substation is slated to go.

In November, Duke began bulldozing part of a mountainside tract near the Hyatt Creek/Ela exit off the Smoky Mountain Expressway between Cherokee and Bryson City to prepare for construction of the substation. The mountainside is considered by the Cherokee to be a part of the greater Kituwah mothertown. Should the project move forward, it would mar a viewshed integral to the tribe’s cultural identity.

The EBCI’s tribal council passed a resolution authorizing Principal Chief Michell Hicks to seek outside legal counsel to attempt to prevent Duke from moving forward with the substation and a transmission line expansion near the Swain County site during its meeting on Feb. 4.

Since then, work at the site has continued. Some 15 members of the tribe traveled to the Swain County commissioners meeting last week in order to ask the board to join with the tribe in opposing the Duke project. The commissioners took no formal action.

“We don’t have any ordinance or regulatory authority to cover that,” said Chairman Glenn Jones. “If the Cherokee want to bring a lawsuit or whatever, we told them we would probably be willing to put our name to it.”

Representatives from Duke have said the substation and line upgrade was intended to serve the expanding demand for energy created by the growth of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.

Company spokesperson Paige Layne cited a lack of communication over the issue as the point of tension.

“This was not something we initiated to cause harm,” Layne said. “Our goal was to provide energy to our consumer base. I guess the next step is to make sure we’re doing that with the utmost respect to the tribe’s culture.”

Wednesday’s meeting could clear the air, but it could also solidify differences between the tribe and the utility company.

Duke has already expressed its intent to resolve the issue through a plan to mitigate the visual impact of the substation on the mountainside. But the tribal council’s resolution cleared the way for a legal battle that could play out in the form of hearings before the North Carolina Utility Commission.

What is Kituwah?

Kituwah is a concept much larger than the mound site proper, which is recorded with the state register of historic places. The name signifies the mothertown of the Cherokee, a kind of original community with which all Cherokees identify.

“The boundaries of Kituwah aren’t confined to the area. It’s intrinsic to the heart and soul of the Cherokee people,” said Tom Belt, a professor of Cherokee Language and Culture at Western Carolina University.

Belt explained Cherokees as far west as Memphis would have identified themselves as Kituwah during the 1600s.

But the tribe lost control of the Kituwah village in the years preceding their forced removal from their ancestral land in Western North Carolina.

During most of the last century and a half, the land has been under agricultural cultivation as part of a tract called Ferguson’s Field.

The Eastern Band bought 309 acres around the mound site in 1996, and an archeological survey the following year discovered a 65-acre village site that confirmed the long term of settlement.

The mound, 170 feet in diameter and five feet tall, formed the base for the council house where the Cherokee conducted some of their most sacred ceremonies.

Belt explained that the concept of the Kituwah mothertown for the Cherokee would encompass the entire area within a day’s walk of the council house. But Belt said the actual valley and its mountains play crucial roles in spiritual ceremonies held on the solstices and in the cosmology that support the tribe’s clan structure.

“On those days if you stand at the mound where the council house was, the very place the light hits first is on the seven peaks on that mountain where the substation will be built,” Belt said.

Duke project threatens sacred character of Kituwah site

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians may pursue legal action against Duke Energy after learning about the utility company’s plans to put an electric substation near Kituwah mound, the tribe’s most sacred site.

On Friday the EBCI’s tribal council passed a resolution authorizing Principal Chief Michell Hicks to seek outside legal counsel to attempt to prevent Duke from moving forward with the substation and a transmission line expansion near the Swain County site.

“I’m very disappointed with the lack of contact with Duke on such a large facility being built near our most important site,” Hicks said.

Hicks said he learned about the estimated $79 million project –– which he termed a “desecration”–– in late December and voiced his concerns to Duke’s regional manager, Fred Alexander. The ensuing discussions were limited, Hicks said.

In November, Duke began bulldozing part of a mountainside tract near the Hyatt Creek/Ela exit off the Smoky Mountain Expressway between Cherokee and Bryson City to prepare for construction of the substation. The mountainside is considered by the Cherokee to be a part of the greater Kituwah mothertown, which was once the tribe’s spiritual and political center. Should the project move forward, it would mar a viewshed integral to the tribe’s cultural identity.

Duke Spokesperson Paige Layne said the company was surprised about the concerns over the substation, which she said is being constructed in part to service Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.

“This was not something we initiated to cause harm,” Layne said. “Our goal was to provide energy to our consumer base. I guess the next step is to make sure we’re doing that with the utmost respect to the tribe’s culture.”

Layne said Duke Energy’s president, James Rogers, has scheduled a meeting on Feb. 22 to visit the site and to discuss the matter with Hicks.

 

Poor communication

The controversy over the construction of the substation emerged when the tribe’s administrators became aware of the scope of the project in late December. Duke Energy purchased the mountainside site in 2008 and a report of the Edison Electric Institute issued in January of the same year identified the Hyatt Creek Substation project as part of a larger $79 million transmission line upgrade that would nearly triple the voltage capacity on 17.5 miles of transmission line from 66 kV to 161kV.

When bulldozing work began late last year as part of the site preparation work, some of the tribe’s employees inquired about the project. The tribe’s legal office contacted the North Carolina Utilities Commission to find out what was going on.

Thomas McLawhorn, spokesperson for public staff at the commission, explained that Duke determined they did not need to file an application for the project.

“Duke has not filed an application, and I don’t believe they intend to,” McLawhorn said.

McLawhorn explained that Duke’s staff had determined that the upgrade project did not require an application under general statute 62.101, which governs the construction of transmission lines.

According to Hannah Smith, an attorney for the tribe, utility companies are required by the statute to notify a number of state agencies and file an application whenever lines of 161kV or more are involved.

McLawhorn said Duke made the determination that, as an upgrade, the project did not require an application, and therefore did not have to specify why the project was necessary.

McLawhorn did say that the North Carolina Utility Commission could impose an injunction on the project in response to an official complaint on behalf of the tribe.

“The commissioners could instruct Duke to cease construction of the facility until the commission has had time to investigate the issue and form an opinion,” McLawhorn said.

McLawhorn said Duke staff members informed him that the upgrade was driven by the need to provide more power to the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.

Layne confirmed providing power for the casino and hotel expansion is the intent of the project.

“The area up there is growing and when we look specifically at the expansion of the hotel and casino, we need to bring in more service to the area,” Layne said.

Layne said Duke was looking at how they could have communicated with the tribe better.

“We have to better understand where in our process we could have taken more steps,” Layne said. “To us it was routine, and when we learned about the visual impairment, it was not routine.”

 

Is mitigation enough?

Last week the tribal council met to consider a resolution authorizing the EBCI attorney general’s office to pursue a course to stop the project.

Tom Belt, a professor of Cherokee Language and Culture at Western Carolina University, said Duke’s construction of the substation near Kituwah was tantamount to putting a McDonald’s sign near the pulpit of a church. Belt urged the tribal council to do whatever it could to protect the site.

“The Kituwah site is one of the most sacred things we have and I would submit that it may have been part of the reason so many of your forbears stayed here in 1838,” Belt told the tribal council.

Tribal council member Teresa McCoy put the issue in perspective for her colleagues.

“I like power, but this is bigger than power,” McCoy said.

According to Layne, Duke has already offered to mitigate the impact of the substation on the viewshed by using non-reflective steel, replanting the area with native plants, and using stone-colored material for retaining walls.

Natalie Smith, a tribal member who owns Tribal Grounds Coffee Shop in Cherokee, asked the tribal council to stand up to Duke and get the project moved.

“I don’t think we should compromise at all with Duke,” Smith said. “I think they’re counting on us not to know the law and I think they’re counting on their Fortune 500 lawyers beating us.”

Hicks seemed to share that sentiment during the meeting.

“The bottom line is it’s a disrespect to our tribe and a disrespect to the people of Swain County,” Hicks said.

Russ Townsend, the tribe’s historic preservation officer, believes Duke should have done more to communicate its plans.

“We’re constantly gathering data that shows Duke has had more opportunities to share more information with us,” Townsend said.

Townsend urged the council to exhaust its resources in defending the site.

“This is our most important site. We’re only ever going to have one Kituwah,” Townsend said. “I don’t think there’s any resource we shouldn’t expend to make Duke realize the importance of the site.”

The meeting between Hicks and Rogers on Feb. 22 could determine whether the state’s largest power company and one of the country’s most wealthy tribes will face off in court over the issue.

The United Keetoowah Band of Oklahoma released a statement denouncing Duke’s failure to communicate with all of the Cherokee bands that hold a stake in the cultural legacy of Kituwah.

EBCI council member Perry Shell said all Cherokees should band together to protect their mothertown.

“United we stand a better chance of fighting this,” Shell said.

Historic Cherokee letterpress carries exciting potential for new art

The newest addition to Southwestern Community College’s Oconaluftee Institute of Cultural Arts holds a piece of Cherokee history. OICA will soon obtain a letterpress that will be used to print books in the Cherokee syllabary.

“We are bringing back the Cherokee history in true art form,” said Luzene Hill, OICA progam outreach coordinator.

Through a $68,846 grant from Cherokee Preservation Foundation and a $47,792 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, OICA will purchase a metal press and develop a printmaking studio at its facilities on Bingo Loop Road in Cherokee.

Years ago, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians published a newspaper called Tsa la gi Tsu lehisanunhi, or the Cherokee Phoenix. This first Native American newspaper was printed on a hot-type letterpress in which each word is put together by hand, combining individual metal letters or characters.

“It opens up a whole new craft of book art for us, including printmaking, hand-papermaking and hand-bookbinding,” said Hill. “For our students, book art will blend fine arts with crafts.”

After 12 years, Sequoyah finished developing the Cherokee syllabary in 1821. Each character represents a syllable, instead of one sound, thus the name syllabary.

As in the Phoenix newspaper, the power of the Cherokee language rises through the printed word on the page, transforming from thoughts to art, Hill explained.

“You already feel the power of words but capturing them in a book through individual characters you’ve laid out in hot type and on paper you’ve made from linen or hemp fiber really helps you feel them in an art form, too,” said Hill.

As students learn to produce first the paper and then the books, they will also learn skills such as precision, technique, spacing and artistic layout composition, said Hill, who is consulting with noted instructor Frank Brannon.

Brannon, who runs his own letterpress studio, SpeakEasy Press, in Dillsboro, earned his master of fine arts in Book Arts at the University of Alabama and has recently taught Letterpress at the Penland School of Crafts and Papermaking and Printing at the John C. Campbell Folk School.

“One of Frank’s specialties is the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper,” said Hill. “He has explored and published copies from the original hand impressions of type from the Phoenix, found in a 1954 excavation of the New Echota historic site. He hand printed and hand bound the publications for exhibition.”

“The Phoenix was a bilingual weekly newspaper printed in parallel columns in Cherokee and English and one of its biggest subscribers was the British Library,” said Brannon, who also teaches at Book Works in Asheville.

The first paper that the Phoenix was printed on came from Knoxville by wagon and it took two weeks to arrive, according to Brannon. The last issue was published in 1834, shortly before the Cherokee removal to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

“Students will learn the Cherokee history right along with the history of the letterpress,” said Hill.

The Cherokee language will also be incorporated into the course since the books can be published in the Cherokee syllabary, she added.

For more information contact Hill at 828.497.3945.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino building for big future

With the rest of the region’s construction economy at a standstill, Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino is in the midst of a massive expansion project employing nearly 1,000 workers.

“We’re kind of creating our own gravity in terms of labor and resources,” said Erik Sneed, project manager for the casino expansion.

The expansion of the casino and hotel began in 2009 and is slated for final completion in 2012. The $600 million project will dramatically increase the casino’s gaming capacity and transform the hotel into one of the largest and finest in the country.

Sneed said Harrah’s has designed its gaming expansion to be flexible enough to be easily adapted if the casino reaches an agreement with the state of North Carolina to bring live dealers to the gambling floor. The casino will go from 3,400 games to 4,700 — 160 of the new additions will be table-based.

In May, the first phase of the bigger gaming floor will come on line, claiming the former entertainment pavilion and performance stage. The new casino area, unveiled with an earth/water-theme, will house 750 additional games and a brand new full-service bar in a non-smoking environment.

In June, another phase of the casino’s expansion will bring an additional 1,000 games on line.

Another characteristic of the new gaming marketplace is adapting to the Asian gambling profile. Feeding off its success at other casinos with Asian gamblers, Harrah’s will add an Asian gaming room featuring Pai Gow poker, baccarat and a nearby traditional noodle bar.

The casino’s expansion reflects the newest trends in the gaming industry. The whir of the slots, the clinking of the coins, and the neon lights have given way to interactive LED lighting displays and electronic debit swipe cards.

The new casino addition is designed as an open, airy environment that draws the outside in by incorporating natural light.

“We’ve really tried to embrace the outdoors and connect well with the creek and the outside surroundings by using lots of glass,” Sneed said.

A newly landscaped green space around Soco Creek, featuring native river cane and reeds, will integrate the casino and hotel into a park-like campus. When the façade of the hotel is complete, the green roof of its porte cochere will be an architectural centerpiece.

The hotel expansion will crown the 37-acre casino complex with a dramatic 21-story high rise — the third and biggest hotel tower yet — featuring glassed-in luxury suites up to 2,000 square feet in size.

The casino’s expansion is a sign of ambition, but it’s also a response to a practical reality. Last year, Harrah’s Cherokee purchased over 77,000 rooms off-campus for casino guests, as their on-site hotel accommodations were consistently maxed out. The expansion will nearly double the hotel’s room capacity from 532 rooms to 1,001 rooms with 107 suites.

New book takes closer look at baskets and their makers

Anna Fariello believes that artifacts — somewhat like windows — can act as passageways to a culture’s soul.

“Material culture can be a window onto the changes that occur in social and cultural history,” said Fariello, an associate professor and chief architect of the Craft Revival Project at Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library.

An author, editor and former research fellow at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Fariello most recently turned her attention to Cherokee basketry, a thousands-year-old tradition, passed from mother to daughter, that she believes is integral to Cherokee culture.

Fariello’s new book, titled Cherokee Basketry: From the Hands of our Elders, studies Cherokee baskets and basket-makers who lived during the first half of the 20th century.

The project reinforced Fariello’s understanding that for Cherokee people, “the making of things is significant to their culture and their identity,” a concept foreign to many people in contemporary, mainstream culture, she said. The Cherokees’ use of natural resources as basket materials gave Fariello an appreciation of the environmental sustainability and ecological balance also inherent in the culture.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians played a significant role in the craft revival, a regional movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that produced a wealth of objects, identified traditional skills, and revitalized handwork production in Western North Carolina.

With a grant from the State Library of North Carolina, Fariello originally set out to expand the information available on the project’s site, which chronicles the movement and its impact on Western North Carolina through text and images.

Fariello worked with the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee with the purpose of making their collections available online.

A grant of $47,000 from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation added a second element to the project: to research and more fully document basketry in those collections.

While the project did not start out as a book, Fariello said it seemed the logical conclusion. “The book takes scattered elements and arranges them for a more complete picture,” she said.

Cherokee Basketry examines specifics about basket-makers themselves, how baskets were made, and what they were used for. Archival photographs illustrate “Cherokee Basketry,” published by The History Press of Charleston, S.C.

“I hope that this book has a broad audience,” Fariello said. “I think it can serve as a classroom text for Cherokee studies or the visual arts, and I also think it will have a broad public appeal for anyone interested in regional culture, especially the influence of the Cherokees on Western North Carolina.”

Fariello presented books to Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Chief Michell Hicks and the Tribal Council. Fariello also gave 200 copies of the book to Cherokee School Superintendent Joyce Dugan for teachers to use in the Eastern Band’s new K-12 school.

The project was a great service to the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, whose permanent collection has more than 100 baskets and continues to grow.

“Before the archive organization, the only recorded information in our permanent collection was a handwritten line about each item,” said Vicki Cruz, manager of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual.

Now the co-op’s archives are digitized and include contemporary photos, as well as information about dimensions, materials and patterns, and the artists themselves.

Fariello also worked with co-op employees on the care and display of the baskets, and about recordkeeping when a new piece enters the collection.

Cruz said she eventually plans to use her new knowledge to document the work of contemporary basket-makers. “The daughters of basket-makers Agnes Welch and Eva Wolfe, they’re basket-makers too, and now their daughters are starting to weave,” she said.

The basketry book is the first in the “From the Hands of our Elders” series, a three-year project to document Cherokee arts.

The next book, funded with $87,770 from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, will focus on Cherokee potters and pottery during the first part of the 20th century. A book on Cherokee woodcarving and mask making is scheduled to follow.

For more information about the “From the Hands of our Elders” series or the Craft Revival Web site, contact Fariello at 828.227.2499 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tribal casino gets OK for gaming floor alcohol

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino may soon serve alcohol on the gaming floor, after receiving an unofficial go-ahead from a state attorney.

The casino has already been offering customers beer, wine and mixed drinks at restaurants and lounges in its adjacent hotel. Bringing alcohol to the floor, though, will be the bigger moneymaker for the casino.

Harrah’s had prohibited players from downing alcoholic drinks on the gaming floor due to uncertainty about a state law that bans gambling at businesses that serve alcohol.

“We had to be clear on the law,” said Bob Blankenship, chairman of the tribe’s Alcoholic Beverage Control commission.

But according to John Aldridge, special deputy attorney general, Harrah’s would not violate any law by serving alcohol on the casino floor.

In a letter to the state ABC commission, Aldridge wrote that the state law only impacts businesses that allow illegal gambling.

Since an agreement with both the state and federal government allows gambling at Harrah’s in Cherokee, the law would not be applicable.

According to Blankenship, all that’s left in the process is the tribal council’s formal approval. Tribe members approved the sale of alcohol on casino premises, but nowhere else in Cherokee, over the summer.

It will take about a week for alcohol to hit the casino floor after the tribal council passes the measure, Blankenship said.

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