I remember as a child, when we were vacationing in the Smokies, the signs in Cherokee, NC advertising “real live indians” always intrigued me. Now that I am an adult, I realize that at that time, the people of Cherokee were giving the people that visited the mountains what they expected. They were giving the tourist a ‘real’ indian, not a real cherokee experience but the indian experience that they expected, full of teepees and tomahawks. Looking back on this now, it was kind of sad how exciting that prospect was. Here is th good news though, these roadside attractions are still around but they have changed.
Nowadays when you visit the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Cherokee, NC, you can still sit on the benches under a small tent. You can still get your picture taken with a ‘real live’ Indian but the show has changed. Now you will get to see traditional Cherokee dancing. You will get to hear stories about the Cherokee, about the proud people that settled this land thousands of years before the European settlers go to the Southern Appalachians. You will hear the true tongue of the Cherokee, you will be able to understand more about their language and their culture. And of course, the best part is that they are not the cheesy roadside stands of many years ago. These offer a more modern look at the Cherokee. No longer are they doing this to make a little income.
Now these Native Americans are using this darker part of their past when these roadside stands were frowned upon and making them an interactive attraction. They are making these an educational opportunity. Now, you can sit down and here Cherokee stories and be taught songs about the Cherokee people, you can also see authentic Cherokee dances. Yes, the teepees are still there, and though they are out of place (the Cherokee never lived in teepees) they are a reminder of the past and great way to bring in the crowds to learn more about the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.