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|Flag of the Eastern Band Cherokee|
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States (North Carolina)|
|Christianity (mostly Protestant), traditional tribal religion|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians|
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), (Cherokee: ᏣᎳᎩᏱ ᏕᏣᏓᏂᎸᎩ, Tsalagiyi Detsadanilvgi) is a federally recognized Indian Tribe based in Western North Carolina in the United States. They are descended from the small group of 800-1000 Cherokee who remained in the Eastern United States after the US military, under the Indian Removal Act, moved the other 15,000 Cherokee to west of the Mississippi River in the late 1830s, to Indian Territory. Those Cherokee remaining in the East were to give up tribal Cherokee citizenship and to assimilate. They became US citizens.
The history of the Eastern Band closely follows that of the Qualla Boundary, a land trust made up of an area of their original territory. When they reorganized as a tribe, they had to buy back the land from the US government. The EBCI also own, hold, or maintain additional lands in the vicinity, and as far away as 100 miles (160 km) from the Qualla Boundary. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are primarily the descendants of those persons listed on the 1925 Baker Rolls of Cherokee Indians. They gained federal recognition as a tribe in the 20th century. The Qualla Boundary is not a reservation per se because the tribe owns the land outright.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is one of three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the others being the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, both based in Oklahoma. The EBCI headquarters is in the namesake town of Cherokee, North Carolina in the Qualla Boundary, south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Eastern Band members are descended primarily from about 800 Cherokee living along the remote Oconaluftee River who were not forcibly subjected to the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Principal Chief Yonaguska, with the help of his adopted European-American son, William Holland Thomas, managed to avoid removal. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have maintained many traditional tribal practices. Many prominent Cherokee historians are affiliated with, or are members of the Eastern Band.
Tsali (pronounced [ˈtsali] ) opposed the removal. He remained in the traditional Cherokee lands with a small group who resisted the U.S. Army and tried to thwart the removal. Tsali was eventually captured. He was executed by the United States in exchange for the lives of the small band he protected. They were allowed to remain in the Cherokee homeland, with the condition that they give up Cherokee tribal citizenship and assimilate as US citizens, and thus state citizens as well.
Their descendants reorganized in the 20th century and gained federal recognition as a tribe known as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (named in reference to the majority of the tribe, who moved west to Indian Territory in 1839.) They bought back land in what is known as Qualla Boundary, part of their traditional territory that had been ceded in the 19th century to the US government by other Cherokee leaders prior to removal.[ citation needed ]
Their Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina exhibits an extensive collection of artifacts and items of historical and cultural interest, from the Woodland and early South Appalachian Mississippian culture periods, of which there are remains such as numerous [earthwork [platform mounds]] in the area, to the Cherokee culture developed by the 16th and 17th centuries by the Cherokee. [ citation needed ]. They are an Iroquoian-speaking people, related by language to those nations in the Iroquois Confederacy and other Iroquoian-speaking groups traditionally occupying territory around the Great Lakes.
The Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, located near the museum, sells traditional crafts made by its members. Founded in 1946, the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual is the country's oldest and foremost Native American crafts cooperative.
More than two dozen Christian churches of various denominations are located within the Qualla Boundary. Many of the traditional religious practices of the Eastern Band have, over time, blended with new age views and customs according to Cherokee traditionalists. They have diverged as the result of cultural isolation of the various factions of Cherokee society. Many traditional dances and ceremonies are still practiced by the Eastern Band.
The Eastern Band has begun a language immersion program requiring all graduating high school seniors to speak the tribal language beginning 2007. Of the total population in the Qualla Boundary, there are approximately 900 speakers, 72% of whom are over the age of 50.
The Eastern Cherokee Indian Nation Land, officially known as the Qualla Boundary, is located at km² (82.600 sq mi), with a 2000 census resident population of 8,092 persons.in western North Carolina, just south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The main part of the reserve lies in eastern Swain County and northern Jackson County, but smaller non-contiguous sections are located to the southwest in Cherokee (Cheoah community) and Graham counties (Snowbird community in the latter). A small part of the main reservation extends eastward into Haywood County. The total land area of these parts is 213.934
The Qualla Boundary is not strictly a reservation, but rather a "land trust" supervised by the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. The land is a fragment of the extensive original homeland of the Cherokee Nation, which once stretched from western Virginia, North and South Carolina, and west to present-day southeastern Tennessee and northeastern Alabama. In the 19th century, the people had to purchase their land to regain it after it was taken over by the US government through treaty cessions, which had all been negotiated by a small percentage of assimilated Cherokees.
Today the tribe earns most of its revenue from a combination of Federal/State funds, tourism, and the Harrah's Cherokee Casino, established in the early 1990s. The gaming revenue is directed at economic development, as well as tribal welfare and support of cultural initiatives, such as the language immersion program and development of historic preservation programs.
Since the late 20th century, the tribe has acquired such sacred sites as Nikwasi Mound (2019, in Franklin, North Carolina) and, downriver, Cowee (2007) (with 70 acres) and Kituwah (1996) mounds, each along the Little Tennessee River. Each is estimated to have been built more than 1,000 years ago. The EBCI also acquired the Tallulah Mound in Robbinsville, North Carolina in 1996.
In 2020 Mainspring Conservation Trust acquired 40 acres that include the Watauga Mound and part of the ancient Watauga Town site, to conserve on behalf of the EBCI. The property is located between Nikwasi upstream and Cowee downstream.
The EBCI is working with local non-profits, such as Mainspring Conservation Trust, Western Carolina University, and local governments to develop the "Nikwasi Trail", highlighting a route along the Little Tennessee River. This is formally known as the Nikwasi-Cherokee Cultural and Heritage Corridor, beginning in Macon County, North Carolina, where the river enters from Georgia.In 2018 partner groups installed a viewing overlook with interpretive panels across the river from the Cowee mound site. This is the second sacred site on this corridor going north from Franklin. More highlighting and interpretation of such sites is planned, in connection with related activities along this route.
Since 2011 the EBCI have also been collaborating with regional universities, the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, and the Duke Energy Foundation on what is called the "Western North Carolina Mounds and Towns Project." As part of this, Western Carolina University, the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research Program at the University of Georgia, and the Tribal Historic Preservation Office of the EBCI have conducted outreach with tribal members, in what is described as indigenous archeology.The data gathered integrates tribal knowledge, as well as information from GIS and non-invasive technologies, excavations, archeology, and anthropology. This has enabled the tribe to have a better record of mounds, with location data and chronological data for its use. Because such mounds were subject to looting in the past, the tribe is keeping the locations of most mounds secret in order to preserve them.
Tourism in the area also offers many campgrounds, trails and river adventures, mountain biking, fishing, golfing, spas, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Unto These Hills Outdoor Historical Drama, Oconaluftee Indian Village, Cherokee Botanical Garden and Nature Trail, the award-winning Museum of the Cherokee Indian, zoos, restaurants, and a collection of galleries and shops representing fine traditional artists, such as Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual.
In 1988, the United States Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which allowed federally recognized tribes to establish casinos on tribal property. Under the act, tribes are limited to offer casino games that correspond to the existing level of gaming allowed under state law. North Carolina was unique in permitting the Cherokee to establish a casino offering Class III gaming in 1994, well before the state allowed a lottery. The typical pattern has been for states to offer a lottery, followed by an agreement between the state and the Indian tribe to allow establishment of a casino or other form of gaming operation.
The first major casino in North Carolina, Harrah's Cherokee (in partnership with Caesars Entertainment), was opened on Qualla Boundary on November 13, 1997.The casino was the result of nearly ten years of negotiations among tribal, state, and federal officials. Principal Chief Jonathan "Ed" Taylor, North Carolina Lead Liaison and Chief Negotiator David T. McCoy, and Governor Jim Hunt had developed a plan for a casino that would meet state laws, and satisfy local and tribal concerns. It opened during the tenure of Principal Chief Joyce Dugan (1995-1999).
Tribal leaders wanted to be able to offer more than bingo and other Class I forms of gambling, to attract larger crowds and generate greater revenue. The tribe had previously opened a small casino offering forms of video poker and electronic bingo. This had been challenged by the Asheville, North Carolina U.S Attorney on the grounds that the tribe was offering a form of gambling that was not legal elsewhere in North Carolina. The tribe wanted to ensure agreements with the state to prevent such problems.
Since North Carolina established a state lottery in August 2005, Harrah’s Cherokee casino has been permitted to extend its offered games to include Class II and III gambling. As thousands of people visit Harrah’s each year and the casino’s popularity continues to increase, the economic benefits of the casino are being realized. Annually, at least $5 million of casino profits is given to the Cherokee Preservation Fund; this institution pays for projects that promote non-gambling economic development, protect the environment, and preserve Cherokee heritage and culture.Another portion of casino profits goes to improving tribal health-care, education, housing, etc. Part of the revenue goes to the state of North Carolina, as provided by the agreement drafted by Taylor and Hunt.
In 1996, the first amendment to the compact was entered into the Federal Register, establishing the appointments of the Gaming Commission, staggered five-year terms for commissioners, and the ability to hire independent legal counsel upon Tribe approval.In 2001, the second amendment to the compact was entered: it raised the gambling age from 18 to 21, affected the qualifications and appointments to the Gambling Commission between the Tribe and the North Carolina Governor, created the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, and clarified games, prizes and gifts awarded. In 2002, an agreement of authorization was reached that allowed the Tribe to hold electronic bingo and raffle games.
In 2011, Governor Bev Perdue and Principal Chief Michell Hicks came to an agreement on a new 30-year gaming compact. The agreement allowed live table games and grants the Tribe sole rights to provide those games west of Interstate 26. Based on this grant of exclusivity, the Tribe had agreed to a revenue-sharing agreement with the State, with funds to be used by the state only for public education purposes.
On September 28, 2015, the Tribe opened their second casino, Harrah's Cherokee Valley River, in Murphy, North Carolina.On July 26, 2019, Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 154 that permitted wagering on sports and horse racing on tribal lands, after the state legalized sports betting in other venues.
Swain County is a county located on the far western border of the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 13,981. Its county seat is Bryson City.
Jackson County is a county located in the far southwest of the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 40,271. Since 1913 its county seat has been Sylva, which replaced Webster.
Cherokee County is the westernmost county in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It borders Tennessee to its west and Georgia to its south. As of the 2010 census, the population was 27,444. The county seat is Murphy, population 1,627 (2010), elevation 1604 ft.
The Cullasaja River is a short river located entirely in Macon County, North Carolina. It is a tributary of the Little Tennessee River into which it flows near the county seat of Franklin.
Cherokee is a census-designated place (CDP) in Swain and Jackson counties in Western North Carolina, United States, within the Qualla Boundary land trust. Cherokee is located in the Oconaluftee River Valley around the intersection of U.S. Routes 19 and 441. As of the 2010 census, the CDP had a population of 2,138. It is the capital of the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, one of three recognized Cherokee tribes and the only one in North Carolina.
The Qualla Boundary or The Qualla is territory held as a land trust by the United States government for the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who reside in western North Carolina. The area is part of the large historic Cherokee territory in the Southeast, which extended into eastern Tennessee, western South Carolina, northern Georgia and Alabama.
Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort is a casino and hotel on the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, North Carolina. It is owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and operated by Caesars Entertainment. It is located on the site of the former Frontier Land theme park. It is one of two casinos in North Carolina. A sister property, Harrah's Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy, North Carolina opened on September 28, 2015.
Joyce Dugan is an American educator, school administrator, and politician; she served as Principal Chief of the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (1995-1999), based in Western North Carolina. She was the first woman to be elected to this office and to date is the only one.
William Holland Thomas was the son of Temperance Colvard (Thomas) and Richard Thomas, who died before he was born. He was raised by his mother on Raccoon Creek outside present-day Waynseville, North Carolina. At the age of 13 he was apprenticed to Felix Walker's store and trading post. There he learned to speak Cherokee and was befriended and later adopted by the chief/headman of the local Cherokees, Yonaguska. He was later adopted into the tribe as a whole. Although it was later claimed by his daughter, Sarah Thomas Avery, that he was principal Chief after Yonaguska's death, it has since been shown that he was not the Chief. Flying Squirrel aka Saunooke was, in fact, the head Chief of the Qualla Cherokee (later known as the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.
Nikwasi comes from the Cherokee word for "star", Noquisi (No-kwee-shee), and is the site of the Cherokee town which is first found in colonial records in the early 18th century, but is much older. The town covered about 100 acres on the floodplain of the Little Tennessee River. Franklin, North Carolina, was later developed by European Americans around this site.
Tsali, originally of Coosawattee Town (Kusawatiyi), was a noted leader of the Cherokee during two different periods of the history of the tribe. As a young man, he followed the Chickamauga Cherokee war chief, Dragging Canoe, from the time the latter migrated southwest during the Cherokee–American wars. In 1812 he became known as a prophet, urging the Cherokee to ally with the Shawnee Tecumseh in war against the Americans.
Cherokee Preservation Foundation is an independent nonprofit foundation established in 2000 as part of the Tribal-State Compact amendment between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and the State of North Carolina. The Foundation is funded by the EBCI from gaming revenues generated by the Tribe; it is not associated with any for-profit gaming entity and is a separately functioning organization independent of the Tribal government. It works to improve the quality of life of the EBCI and strengthen the western North Carolina region by balancing Cherokee ways with the pursuit of new opportunities. The Foundation focuses on cultural preservation, economic development, job creation, and environmental preservation and is an engine for rural community development on the Qualla Boundary and the surrounding Haywood, Jackson, Clay, Macon, Graham, Swain and Cherokee counties.
Clifford Gerard Parker, known as Gerard Parker was Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for 16 days in 1995. Prior to this he had served as Vice Chief for six years under Jonathan L. Taylor, who was impeached after two terms. He continued to serve as Vice Chief under Joyce Dugan, who was elected in 1995.
Legal forms of gambling in the U.S. state of North Carolina include the North Carolina Education Lottery, two Indian casinos, charitable bingo and raffles, and low-stakes "beach bingo". North Carolina has long resisted expansion of gambling, owing to its conservative Bible belt culture.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians educational policies have shaped the scholastic opportunities afforded to its members. The decision of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) to take control of the schools located on the Qualla Boundary under the Tribally Controlled Schools Act of 1987 started a wave of tribal responsibility in education. EBCI Tribal Council began producing programs that aided its members in most all aspects of the educational process. The evolution of these programs, their financing, and their relationship with tribal members and non-members alike are in a constant state of flux dependent upon policies produced by the EBCI tribal council. The EBCI tribal council does not directory set educational policy, although some if its members do set on boards that govern the educational facilities, and in most cases the director of the educational programs do report to the tribal council throughout the year. The policies of the EBCI educational programs can be analyzed through their respective goals, objectives, and procedures.
Too-Cowee, was an important historic Cherokee town located near the Little Tennessee River north of present-day Franklin, North Carolina. It also had a prehistoric platform mound and earlier village built by ancestral peoples. As their expression of public architecture, the Cherokee built a townhouse on top of the mound. It was the place for their community gatherings in their highly decentralized society. The name translates to "pig fat" in English. British traders and colonists referred to Cowee as one of the Cherokee Middle Towns along this river; they defined geographic groupings based in relation to their coastal settlements, such as Charlestown, South Carolina.
Ravensford is an unincorporated community in Swain County, Western North Carolina. This is within the traditional homeland of the Cherokee people. In a survey and excavation project in the early 21st century, part of the community was found to have archeological resources that were thousands of years old, in addition to more recent historic materials related to the Cherokee people. In 1938, the US Government and state of North Carolina negotiated with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to gain their agreement to transfer some of their land to enable construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway. In return, lands in Ravensford were transferred to their Qualla Boundary property.
Patrick Henry Lambert is a Native American tribal leader who served as Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians from 2015 to 2017. He also served as the Executive Director of the Cherokee Tribal Gaming Commission for over twenty years.
The New Kituwah Academy, also known as the Atse Kituwah Academy, is a private bilingual Cherokee- and English-language immersion school for Cherokee students in kindergarten through sixth grade, located in Cherokee, North Carolina, in the Yellow Hill community of the Qualla Boundary. It is owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), and operated by the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program (KPEP).
The Oconaluftee River drains the south-central Oconaluftee valley of the Great Smoky Mountains in Western North Carolina before emptying into the Tuckasegee River. The river flows through the Qualla Boundary, a federal land trust that serves as a reservation for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee (EBCI), the only federally recognized tribe in the state of North Carolina. They bought the land back from the federal government in the 1870s, after having been pushed off and forced to cede it earlier in the nineteenth century. Several historic Cherokee towns are known to have been located along this river.