Oconaluftee, Replica Cherokee Village, Approved

Historic interpreters at Oconaluftee, circa 1952. Image from the State Archives.On August 16, 1950, the Cherokee Historical Association agreed to build a replica of an 18th-century Indian village to depict Cherokee daily life and culture before European contact.

The site chosen was 40 wooded acres on the slope of Rattlesnake Mountain near the town of Cherokee. Called “Oconaluftee,” the recreated village is based on an older Cherokee community known as “Egwanulti,” meaning “by the river.” Early English explorer William Bartram wrote about the village in his 1775 journals. General Griffith Rutherford’s army likely destroyed it during the 1776 campaign against the Cherokee.

The job of creating an accurate replica of the village fell to archaeologists and anthropologists of the Tsali Institute for Cherokee Research. P.A. Willett supervised construction of the village, which features a seven-sided council house, homes and other circa 1750s structures.

It opened to the public in August 1952, and a botanical garden and nature trail were added in 1954. Today, Cherokee guides in authentic attire educate visitors about traditional Cherokee beliefs, government and family life, while demonstrating ancient crafts, such as pottery, weapon making and canoe building.

Visit: Oconaluftee is open to visitors six days a week and is located in Swain County.

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