Art For Indigenous Survival

March 1999

The sixth teaching expedition with Art for Indigenous Survival was to the Cherokee people of Qualla Boundary, North Carolina. Ringed by the Southern Appalachian Mountains, the Boundary is home to about 11,000 people.

After getting settled in our rental cabin, Irma and I drove to Tsali Manor, the Cherokee Senior Citizen Center. We began teaching in the activities room with sixteen ladies - making male Cardinals - known to the Cherokee as Redbirds. They fed us along with about 80 Seniors for lunch. They serve lunch five days a week except when it snows and the buses can't drive the mountain roads.

The ladies - Joyce, Sharon, Nell, Elsie, Emma, Rosie, Emmaline, Rowena, Charlotte, Mary Jane - finished 12 male Redbirds and 6 females. They then started on the Trillium. Pink Ladies Slippers are next.

Love the way the town meanders along the Occonlufte River with the tourist shops on one side and the tribal offices and schools on the other. The people live in small communities scattered among the hollows stretching up into the mountains. Tourism is the economic heart of this community nestled beside the Great Smokey Mountains. We visited the Museum of the Cherokee Indian where the tribe had taken $3.5 million from the Casino earnings for a lazer-lit renovation. Visiters can follow the Cherokee history from ancient days to the Trail of Tears and the heartbreaking forced removal of most of the tribe to the west. This Eastern Band is descended from those who hid out in the mountains.

By March 19 we had made over 60 Redbirds, two walls of Trillium and Ladies Slippers and five Bald Eagles (13 more were in process). Irma and I went to the Casino, Harrahs, for dinner. Each man, woman and child enrolled in the tribe (about 11,500) received $2,500 in 1998 from Casino earnings. Those under 18 were put into a trust fund and children born during the lst year of the Casino could receive $100,000 on their 18th birthdays. Casino earnings are also being used for health, education and cultural programs.

March 26 arrived (the ladies had finished 18 Bald Eagles) and the snow fell again thus fulfilling the Junco (or Snowbird's) predictions. Ten inches fell as we said good-by to the Cherokee and headed home.