Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 11. Harrah's Cherokee Casino.

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Harrah's Cherokee Casino.
The Cherokee have always lived in Western North Carolina. They have maintained their traditions for generations and proudly preserve a culture far older than the new nation which surrounds them. Artifacts- from finely crafted stone tools and fluted spear-points, confirm that the Cherokees lived here more than 11,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. By 8000BC, villages dotted this area, and the Cherokees developed settled towns, politics, religion, and agriculture. Over a thousand years ago, the Cherokees took on life patterns that persisted through the 18th century. When European explorers came to the southern Appalachians, they discovered a flourishing nation here. The Cherokees controlled about 140,000 square miles throughout eight present-day southern states. The Cherokees controlled the hunting grounds in the rugged highlands and maintained hunting camps. Villages governed themselves democratically. The Cherokee were governed by two separate and distinct administrations - one for peace and one for war. Their chiefs were chosen through a matrilineal social system controlled by the women. Each village had a war chief, a peace chief, and a priest. Religion was not regarded as a separate entity but as an important philosophical base for their way of life. Their social structure consisted of seven clans of familial organization - Bird, Deer, Wolf, Blue, Long Hair, Wild Potato, and Paint. Traditionalists still observe clan customs regarding marriage and certain social events. Since clan members are considered brothers and sisters, marriage within the clan is forbidden. Seating at ceremonies is delineated by clan and knowledge of one's clan is necessary in traditional medicine ceremonies and when seeking spiritual guidance. Historically a matrilineal society, women were considered the head of the household and clanship is passed through the mother. The men fished and hunted. The women gathered wild food and cultivated "the three sisters-" corn, beans, and squash were interplanted to minimize the need for staking and weeding. The Cherokee life realized harmony with nature. The land furnished all - food, shelter, clothing, visual grandeur, herbs to treat illness - until the Europeans came. The Cherokees were a peaceful people. For the first 200 years of contact, the Cherokees extended hospitality and help to the Europeans. Peaceful trade ensued. Intermarriage was not uncommon. The Cherokees viewed assimilation and acculturation to the new European lifestyle as a means of survival. This was particularly reflected in education. The Cherokees invited religious missionaries into their Nation to develop schools. The Cherokees embraced useful aspects of the Europeans' culture - from fruits like peaches and watermelons to written language. Their language was single-handedly created by the Cherokee genuis, Sequoyah, who introduced the Cherokee alphabet to the national council in 1821. Within months, most of the Cherokee nation became literate. Today, in Cherokee, there is the Kituweh Academy, an immersion school, where the children learn the Cherokee language from early childhood. The school was developed to make sure that the language did not die, after generations of tribal members were forbidden to speak it. The Cherokee history is a story of suffering, endurance and survival. The Indian Removal Act of 1830, thanks to Andrew Jackson, insisted that all southeastern Indians be moved west of the Mississippi. This act resulted in the tragic Trail of Tears - where nearly 20,000 Cherokees were forced from their homes and relocated to Oklahoma. 4000 Cherokee died on the Trail of Tears from exposure, disease, and the shock of separation from their home. The Cherokees in Western North Carolina today descend from those who were able to hold on to the land they owned, those who hid in the hills and defied removal, and those who later returned. With great effort, the Cherokees have created a vibrant, viable society, and a sovereign nation - the Cherokee Nation. The Eastern Band of Cherokee, located in western North Carolina in their traditional homelands, is the only tribe in North Carolina that is recognized by the federal government. This tribe consists of approximately 14,000 members and holds 56,000 acres in the Qualla Boundary. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians continues to operate as a sovereign nation. The Cherokee Harrah's Casino is owned by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. It's all you see when you drive into Cherokee on US 19. All 21 stories of it. The casino opened in 1997. At that time, Cherokee's County, Swain, was the poorest county in North Carolina. Now, Swain County is rated number 90 out of 100. Because of the casino, every Cherokee tribe member receives a dividend check every month. Now, any tribal member who wants to go to college can have their room and board paid for. Now, the Cherokee have hope for their future. All because of the casino. The Cherokee have come from poverty, to having a middle class for the first time in their history and the casino is paving their way to prosperity. The Cherokee have learned to adapt. In spite of everything. They have adapted.

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