Cherokee History and Culture

Cherokee History and Culture includes everything from Turbulent Beginnings to a Rich Cultural Experience

When our blue planet began about 1 billion years ago, the Great Smoky Mountains region was a sprawling ancient sea. When Africa and North America collided about 250 million years ago, layers of rock buckled and tilted upward creating a towering range of mountains now called the Appalachians. Originally looking like a jagged, piercing Himalayas, the erosive forces of nature sculpted the Great Smoky Mountains to the more rounded shape and appearance we see today.

Over 10,000 Years of Cherokee History and Culture

Evidence of human habitation in the Smokies dates back at least 11,000 years when the Cherokee Nation stretched from the Ohio River to South Carolina. The Cherokee enjoyed a settled, agriculturally based life, living in log huts grouped around a town square. The first Europeans reach the Smokies in 1540 when Spanish explorer Hernando deSoto led an expedition through Cherokee territory. In the late 18th century, Scotch-Irish, German and English settlers arrived in the Smokies in significant numbers and made the Southern Highlands home.

Cherokee History and Culture is Rooted in the Principles of Sharing and Collaboration

The Cherokee eventually embraced their new neighbors and traded peaceably, shared food and woodland medicines. European settlers shared tools and woodworking techniques. Both groups of people shared art, music and dance. Together, the collective beliefs of the Cherokee and the Europeans about nature, arts, crafts, music, food and dance proved to be a lasting influence on our eclectic Smoky Mountain culture.

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