Holly Kays

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians hopes to see a recent $5.8 million purchase by Kituwah LLC generate revenue for the tribe while simultaneously improving tribal members’ access to quality, affordable housing. 

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Cherokee resident Shannon White, 42, will face federal charges for allegedly distributing fentanyl that resulted in an overdose death.

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Sheriff Chip Hall is hoping that a recently adopted policy change will make it easier for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department to recruit experienced law enforcement officers. 

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The Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority will have a new executive director on the job by March 19 after the TWSA board voted unanimously during its Feb. 18 meeting to hire engineer Daniel Manring. 

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Neither Jamie and nor Ruffin Shackleford ever attended summer camp as children, but they believe they were built to lead it. 

Jamie first heeded that calling at the tender age of 10, when she invited all the neighborhood 3- and 4-year-olds to attend her three-day-a-week backyard summer camp. All it cost them was a quarter to help pay for snacks. 

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Morris Broadband has significantly upgraded and expanded its service in Macon and Jackson counties, increasing both its download speeds and its service area as the new decade begins.

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In Virginia last week, both the House and Senate passed versions of a bill that would allow for casino gambling in the state, but if those bills are enacted as currently drafted the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will be out of luck on its plan to build a casino near Bristol. 

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The landscape got a bit brighter for food truck owners following a pair of decisions in Cherokee and Sylva this month. 

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Tribal Council approved an $89,745 donation to Jackson County Schools during its Budget Council meeting Tuesday, Feb. 4, money that will pay for desks, chairs and smart blackboards system classrooms. 

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With Republican Commissioner Ron Mau leaving his seat for a run at N.C. House District 119, three Democrats are vying for a chance to face Republican Tom Stribling in the General Election for the District 3 seat on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. 

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After more than six years of work, a draft forest management plan for the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest is now available.

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The Health and Human Sciences Building at Western Carolina University will reopen on Monday, Feb. 10 after a Feb. 6 hazardous materials incident caused an evacuation and sent multiple people to the hospital.

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Tribal Council expressed its support of the free press during a thoughtful discussion between its members and Smoky Mountain News Publisher Scott McLeod Wednesday, Feb. 5. 

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The Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains logged a collective 3.7 million visits to park entrances in North Carolina west of Asheville last year, an 8.5 percent increase over 2018. 

The Smokies overall demolished visitation records, with preliminary numbers showing 12.55 million visits in 2019 — a 9.9 percent increase over the 11.42 million seen in 2018. Foothills Parkway West accounted for about 67.7 percent of the 1.3 million additional visitors after a new 16.5-mile section of the road opened in November 2018, making 2019 the first full year it was open. More than 1.5 million people drove on the 33-mile section that includes the new piece of road.

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How do you create new fluent speakers in a language that’s no longer the common tongue of its community? 

That’s the difficult question about 75 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians faced on Friday, Jan. 31, the second day of a two-day symposium focused on saving the Cherokee language. 

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Sylva’s finances are in a good place going into the 2020 budget season, but with the N.C. 107 project looming there’s no room for complacency. 

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Jordan Smith will lead Mainspring Conservation Trust into the new decade following a decision from the nonprofit’s board of directors.

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Motion Makers Bicycles in Cherokee is starting 2020 with a new location and a new roommate, but the same optimism about the future of outdoor sports on the Qualla Boundary. 

The bike shop’s Cherokee location first opened 2018, sharing a two-story yellow building on Big Cove Road with Franklin-based outfitter Outdoor 76. The concept was solid, but the logistics proved problematic. Four months after opening in Cherokee, Outdoor 76 launched a third location in Clayton, Georgia. Travel between the three locations was time-consuming, and the two-story layout was a challenge. 

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The Jackson County commissioners voted unanimously Jan. 21 to change their regular meeting schedule, with their second monthly meeting to be held at 1 p.m. rather than 3 p.m. going forward. 

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Western North Carolinians tuning into the Super Bowl this Sunday might do a double take when they glimpse scenes of Sylva in the pre-game programming.

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Sylva’s newest police chief was looking for the little town in Jackson County before he knew it existed. 

“I didn’t want to work for a big huge agency where you don’t know your officers’ names,” said Chief Chris Hatton. “I also didn’t want to go somewhere we were dealing with violent crime every day, every day a shooting or a robbery. I’ve done that. I didn’t want to do it again. Truthfully, I was looking for Sylva for two years. I didn’t know that then, but I was looking for a place where you can live a good life and be surrounded by good people.”

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw a record 12.55 million visits in 2019, an increase of 1.13 million over 2018, which was also a record-breaking year.

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Waynesville native and X Games rookie Zeb Powell took gold Jan. 26 at an international competition held in Aspen, Colorado, wowing spectators and commentators alike.

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Jackson County Commissioners voted unanimously Jan. 21 to approve a design services contract for the animal shelter project planned for the Green Energy Park property.

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Work could begin on a long-awaited river park in Cullowhee sooner rather than later following completion of an N.C. Department of Transportation bridge project in the Old Cullowhee area. 

“We got the new maps from the DOT of where the road configuration was, and DOT had to acquire a lot of property to swing that road around,” said Anna Fariello, a longtime member of the community nonprofit Cullowhee Revitalization Endeavor, or CuRvE. “I didn’t realize how much land they actually took. We’re looking at these maps, and I was blown away.”

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When Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill last July legalizing sports betting on Cherokee land, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos expected to have the new offering up and running by late fall. But now it’s mid-winter, and sports betting is still not available at the casinos in Cherokee and Murphy. 

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It will cost nearly half a million dollars to upgrade facilities at the Smoky Mountain High School baseball fields to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

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A new retail complex featuring a mix of local and national chains is expected to break ground in Cherokee this year, with Tribal Council voting this month to approve an additional $2 million for the project in return for a 5 percent equity stake.

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UPDATE: Ward was found in Tennessee Jan. 18 thanks to help from a citizen and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. N.C. Juvenile Services will continue assisting in this case. 

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office is looking for help to find a teenager who ran away from the Nations Creek community. 

Aubrey Elizabeth Ward is a 14-year-old white female who is 5 feet, 7 inches, and 115 pounds. She has been gone from her home since Jan. 9, but investigative efforts have found multiple residences in Jackson County where she has been since. Some reports indicate that she has traveled to Tennessee, while others indicate that she is still in the area. 

Contact the Jackson County Sheriff's Office dispatch center with any information at 828.586.1911.

 

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Zeb Powell was 7 years old the first time he tried a snowboard. 

That initial ride wasn’t great — Powell, a lefty, found himself being sent down the mountain right foot forward — but after that something clicked. Powell hit a box the first night and from there on out spent as much time as possible on the slopes at Cataloochee Ski Area. 

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After nearly an hour of debate, Tribal Council voted unanimously last week to place term limits on members of the two boards that oversee tribal gaming operations.

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The Town of Sylva has two new members on its planning board following a pair of unanimous votes from town commissioners Thursday, Jan. 9. 

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Casino gaming is under serious discussion in the Virginia legislature this year, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is hoping to get in on the ground floor with a recently announced proposal to build a casino near Bristol, Virginia. 

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For the second year running, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would return 76 culturally significant acres in Tennessee to Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians ownership.

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Fire education in Jackson County will soon get a leg up following county commissioners’ vote Dec. 17 to appropriate $169,434 for a Smart Fire Safety Training Trailer. 

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A month has passed since the Dec. 7 cyber attack that loaded ransomware on the tribal computer network, but the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is still working to restore its operations to normal.   

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is the only federally recognized Native American tribe in North Carolina, but that could change if a bill currently making its way through Congress meets success. The Lumbee Recognition Act, also known as H.R. 1964, would extend federal recognition to the 55,000-member Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, ending a 131-year effort to obtain it. 

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It’s often been said that there’s wisdom to be found in the rhythms of nature, and that’s certainly true. But there’s also wisdom — and humor as well — in the words of those who spend their time outdoors, soaking those rhythms into their souls. Some of their words are featured here among The Smoky Mountain News’ favorite quotes from 2019’s outdoors section.

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The Jackson County Commissioners traveled to Cashiers for their Dec. 12 meeting, but Commissioner Mickey Luker — who was elected to represent the Cashiers area — did not attend. 

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The National Park Service is embarking on a system-wide effort to crack down on invasive animal species following the conclusion of a three-year research endeavor conducted by a panel of experts in fields ranging from park management to emerging technology. 

The Park Service reached out to members of the group in 2016, asking them to review the agency’s existing approach to invasive animal management and to look at the results of data collected from park units across the country. Combining panel members’ expert knowledge with data results and information gleaned from questions to park staff, the group produced an internal report to the Park Service as well as a scientific paper published this month in the journal “Biological Invasions.”

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The Sylva Police Department is looking into an incident that occurred on Tuesday, Dec. 17, during a protest downtown that was part of a nationwide string of rallies calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. 

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Sylva was named the nation’s slowest city for internet in a recent report from internet service comparison website www.highspeedinternet.com, and that struggle continues to be a frequent topic of conversation in town and county meetings. 

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Funding for a new animal shelter in Jackson County has been approved following a Dec. 17 vote to OK $5.39 million in funding for the next phase of a project to redevelop the 19-acre property that is currently home to the Jackson County Green Energy Park. 

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After more than three years of anticipating the expenditure, Jackson County has allocated funds to replace its recently decertified voting machines. 

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Panthertown Valley’s popularity is increasing, and advocates for the backcountry area — located near Cashiers in the Nantahala National Forest — hope its newfound designation as a Leave No Trace Hot Spot will help head off some of the less-than-pleasant effects of that popularity.

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Beer and wine could join hot dogs and sodas as common concessions at Western Carolina University athletic events following a unanimous vote from the WCU Board of Trustees this month. 

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The cost of attendance at Western Carolina University will rise 3.27 percent next year following the WCU Board of Trustees’ vote to approve a schedule of increases to fees and room rates, as well as changes to existing meal plans. 

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Christmas will be extra sweet this year for tribal employees following Tribal Council’s vote to enact a 7 percent cost-of-living raise retroactive to the start of the fiscal year Oct. 1. Employees will start receiving their new salary as well as retroactive pay at the next payday Dec. 20.

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Long before the creation of Western Carolina University, the state of North Carolina or the U.S. Constitution, the valley now known as Cullowhee bore the name Tali Tsisgwayahi — in Cherokee, it meant “Two Sparrows Town.”

Now, that name has returned to a portion of the 600-acre campus with the formal dedication of the Two Sparrows Town Archeological Collections Curation Facility, held Thursday, Dec. 6, at the facility on the ground floor of McKee Building. 

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Concerned by ongoing erosion issues at the Western Carolina University Millennial Apartments construction site in Cullowhee, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners has sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper and Secretary of Environmental Quality Michael Regan requesting more frequent monitoring on the site. 

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