Southern Appalachian Digital Collections

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Western Carolina University

Cherokee Traditions

Maude Welch

Cherokee Traditions: From the Hands of Our Elders is a database of Cherokee art forms, historic photographs, and native language recordings. The images reproduced here are primarily from the collections of Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Recordings were made as part of WCU’s Cherokee Language Revitalization program. Hunter Library collaborated with two of the Cherokee’s primary cultural institutions, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Under its program of cultural preservation, the Cherokee Preservation Foundation contributed funding to its success. 


The collection documents life and tradition on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) boundary in Western North Carolina. This collection includes craft makers whose work spanned the turn of the twentieth century, Indian Fair programs, Cherokee language, oral histories, and the constitution of the Cherokee Nation. The representations of arts and crafts objects within the collection show a period of transition, from a point when objects were produced primarily for use in the home, to a time when they were collected and admired by others far from the Qualla Boundary. In spite of such change, there was a definite continuity of tradition supported by the strength of family and community. This time demanded adaptation and inventiveness from a generation whose lives were constantly shifting in response to changes brought about by outside forces. This generation of artisans—whom we respectfully call the elders—shaped the Cherokee’s contemporary aesthetic and inspired others to follow their creative lead.1


The arts and crafts movement is only one part of the Cherokee Traditions collection. The Cherokee Traditions collection also contains short recordings of the Cherokee Language spoken by Tom Belt as part of the Cherokee Language Program. Tom Belt is a native Cherokee speaker from the Oklahoma band of Cherokee and retired coordinator of the Cherokee language program at WCU. Cherokee or more properly Tsalagi is an endangered language but through programs like the Cherokee Language Program and the Atse Kituwah Academy an immersive language school on the EBCI boundary, it is being saved for future generations. Cherokee language is based on an oral tradition to hear the language spoken and Cherokee stories browse sound and video recordings


Cherokee Traditions were informed by the work of the same name by Anna Fariello in conjunction with Hunter Library Digital Initiatives at WCU, Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Visit the original project website. This exhibits features a rivercane bakset pattern index. Please note that this is a finished project and links to materials and items may no longer be correct.



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