On our third teaching expedition to Cherokee, we found a lot of changes. There are bear sculptures all over town, each painted by a local artist. From the patriotic flag bear at the Veterans Memorial, to the Tsali bear in front of the Museum, they have become favorite spots for family photos. New buildings are going up rapidly. There is a large education complex out on Big Cove Road that features a new elementary, middle and high school as well as a museum to house all of the artifacts found during the excavation. There is a new theater being completed and a Women's Wellness Center. Store fronts along the main tourist track are being refurbished. Casino earnings have engendered considerable growth and development.
We were happy to find the senior center, Tsali Manor, to be basically unchanged. It was good to reconnect with old friends from 2004 and 1999. We started with Pileated Woodpeckers and then moved on to Yellow Ladies Slippers, Great Blue Herons (known to the Cherokee as Cranes), Elk heads and Wolfsbane.
We talked about wildlife sightings — particularly the Herons, Woodpeckers and Elk. The Elk herd was still migrating through the school construction site. Wild Turkeys were often sighted behind Tsali Manor, Ducks could be easily found on the Occonalufti River, and Canadian Geese are everywhere.
During the last week, Woodpeckers proliferated, Ladies Slippers were hung up, and the Herons were being finished. Lwezie Calonheskie finished her Heron before going in for knee surgery. Joyce Welch did a superb job on her Elk. She had been studying the real one that raided her bird feeder all winter.
On the last Friday, we gathered for the group picture and showed off our achievements. There had been a lot of laughter and story telling over the month. We look forward to seeing how the Cherokee people handle the conflicts produced by very rapid growth and a strong desire to hold on to the very best from their long past. We wish them luck.