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Interview with Chief Joyce C. Dugan

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  • Joyce C. Dugan, who was at this time Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, discusses tourism and the Cherokees. She begins by discussing the history of tourism on the Qualla Boundary, which began during the 1920s and increased when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was opened due the park's proximity to the reservation. She then discusses the economic benefits of tourism, as tribal levies have allowed the Cherokee to develop infrastructure, though tourism has led to compromises of traditional values and identity to appeal to tourists. Tourism's chief benefit has been economic, but Dugan does emphasize the compromises and identifies some level of resentment among the Cherokee over the necessity of tourism to the local economy. She then addresses specific kinds of tourism, saying that in the past the Cherokee had encouraged lower-income tourists with lower cultural expectations, though this has changed over time; Dugan sees a desire for more honest portrayals of Cherokee history and culture, with an emphasis on interactive experiences and authenticity, such as the marketing of traditional crafts. At the time of the interview, Harrah's Cherokee Casino was yet to open, and Dugan expressed her expectation that the casino would lead to increase in tourism as well as a change in visitor demographics, though she hoped that the casino would simply be one of many attractions and she was hopeful that the community would be able to maintain a balance and not suffer extreme cultural loss. She talks about her desire for tourists to be able to have interactive learning experiences about Cherokee history free of embellishment and with more engagement from the Cherokee people, with more being done at the ceremonial grounds. The interview closes with Dugan expressing her hope that visitors leaving Cherokee have a positive image of the community and think of it as a good place to visit.