Friday, October 14, 2011

October 12. The Hawthornes Visit The Oconaluftee Indian Village In Cherokee, NC.

A trip to Cherokee, NC., would not be complete without a visit to the Oconaluftee Indian Village. ($18 a pop.) The Oconaluftee Indian Village is an authentic replica of a Cherokee community of 1750. Cherokee Indians demonstrate and practice their traditional arts, such as dancing, basket weaving, wood carving, finger weaving, pottery and mask making, beadwork, weapon making, and canoe making in an eighteenth century setting.
I liked the whimsy of the terra cotta pots here. Mar, didn't you make something similar to this for your garden? And that would be my friend, Marilyn, of Foodies Untie blogdom.
First we were treated to traditional Indian dances. The Bear Dance, the Beaver Dance, and the Buffalo Dance. Videos at the end.
Situated on the mountainside above the town of Cherokee, this village is more than just a place. It's a time: 1750. You walk along the village's paths, from house to house, and watch Cherokee craftsmen as they go about their daily activities, demonstrating their skills in making baskets, arrowheads, blowguns, beaded belts, ceremonial masks, dugout canoes, and pottery.
Beautiful beadwork going on here.
Two types of beadwork are created. The first type is called "scroll work" and is used to decorate clothing Traditionally, the scroll work is sewn down the sides of men's pants and around the hems of women's skirts. Flax thread, glass beads, and stainless steel needles are used. The second type is called "solid" beadwork and is used for making belts, necklaces, and headbands. Each bead is sewn one at a time onto the previous bead, allowing the thread to pass through the bead twice.
Pottery making here, using ancient traditional methods. Native clay found under the topsoil along the streams and rivers of the area is used. The Cherokee have never used a potter's wheel or any type of mold in their pottery. Paint or glaze was rarely used. There are two methods: the ball method and the coil method. The ball method is used to make smaller pots. The clay is shaped into a ball, then the thumbs are pushed into the center. The pots are given their characteristic shape by using the forefinger to sculpt the outside. Designs can be drawn on by using sticks, seashells, or other items. The coil method is used for larger pots. This begins with a flat disc of clay, then coils are placed on top of each other, forming the pot. The pot is then placed in the sun to dry until it's firm enough to work with. Then the pot is carved to an even thickness, perhaps by using a seashell or metal tool. A damp cloth wipes away the scrape marks. The women perfect their work by rubbing the pot with a bone or smooth stone, which gives the pot its shiny finish. Designs may be applied on larger pots by using wooden utensils or bones. The pots are again placed in the sun to dry until they turn a chalky-white. A deep pit is dug and a fire built. The pots are placed around the edge of the fire pit with openings toward the fire. They're left there until the fire goes out. The color of the pot is determined by the type of wood used in firing. Lighter colors come from hardwoods that have more flame than smoke. Darker colors come from softwoods that give off more smoke.
Weaponry making.
Blowguns. Cherokee blowguns were made from river cane cut into 6 - 8 foot lengths. The cane was gathered and stored until dry. Then it was straightened by holding it over an open fire and bending it over one's knee. The cane was then cut into the proper length. A metal tool was used to knock out the joints inside then canes were smoothed inside with a smaller cane or a flint drill. Darts were made from a sharpened stick with thistledown tails that provided an air seal and allowed for a straight flight. Blowguns were never used in warfare, but only in hunting small game, such as squirrels and rabbits.
Basket weaving. Until recently, few records have been kept that documented the methods used to create the baskets. The basket weaving skill has been mostly passed down through oral traditions from generation to generation. Recently, a $47,000 grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation is being used to develop a project called "From the Hands of Our Elders," to document and save for posterity the history, techniques, patterns, and materials used in the basket-weaving of the Cherokee. The Cherokee used white oak, maple, honeysuckle, willow, and especially river cane, a strong, durable native plant of the bamboo family. The river cane was a difficult fiber to work with as it is hard and tough and must be kept wet. Frequently, the cane is colored with native dyes. Dyes were made from a variety of plants, including walnut, bloodroot, butternut, elderberries, goldenrod, and dock. They devised a complex method of basketmaking called the "double weave," which produced a double-layered basket. Each clan had distinct basket patterns. The names of their designs - Flowing Water, Mountain Peaks, Peace Pipe - evoke the essence of Cherokee culture in the North Carolina mountains.
Bow and arrows.
Arrowhead making was a popular practice for the whole family. A large river stone would be used to break a smaller piece of flint from a large one. Using a small river stone, the craftsman would give the arrowhead its general shape. By applying pressure to the edges of the arrowhead with a deer's antler, the arrowhead was given its sharpness and more permanent shape. Two types of arrowheads were used by the Cherokee. The first type was a round-shouldered arrowhead. This was attached to the shaft by using fibers of the Indian hemp plant. When shot into an animal's body, the arrowhead could be easily removed and reused. The second type of arrowhead was a square or high-shouldered arrowhead used in warfare. This was attached to the shaft by using animal sinew. When shot into the enemy, the sinew would expand upon mixing with blood. The arrowhead was either left in, cut out, or pushed on through the body.
The shafts for the arrows were made from mountain cane, similar to river cane which was used to make baskets. Wild turkey feathers, tied to the shaft by Indian hemp fibers, were on the tails of the arrowheads.
Traps for small game and fish.
This style of home, with the logs and mud in between is more of a settler's home than a Cherokee home.
Inside, these homes are quite toasty.
To soften their oak beds, the women would place boughs of broomsage and hemlock.
This is more indicative of a Cherokee dwelling - woven saplings were plastered with mud. This is called the wattle and daub method. Unlike the migratory tribes of the plains living in teepees, the Cherokee lived in permanent housing. In the same way the Cherokee made their baskets, they built their houses. Limber twigs and cane were woven through firm upright posts. Over this surface, the builders plastered a mixture of weeds and grass folded into smooth clay. The roofs were similar constructions.
This is a sweat house.
The stones were heated, water poured over to make steam, and the sick put in here to sweat it out.
This Indian is showing us how corn was ground. The finest corn went into bread-making. The coarser corn went in making hominy.
If you look closely, you'll see trout.
Finger-weaving is a distinctly beautiful craft of the Cherokee women. Before the introduction of yarn, the Cherokee people used the inner fibers of Indian hemp and the fibers of the mulberry root to make the thread for this type of weaving. The threads were dyed by various native roots and barks. The fibers were woven in both single and double weave styles. The single weave is an over-and-under method producing checked and plaid designs. The double weave method is done on a loom and produces a much wider variety of designs. Using 10-100 fibers at a time, the women can weave a multitude of patterns and colors. These long weavings are used for clothing such as belts and sashes, or they can be sewn together to make blankets and shawls. Council house. The council house is seven-sided, representing the seven clans of the Cherokee. Seven sections of seats were provided within, giving each clan a section for its representatives within the governmental structure. The seven sections surrounded the sacred fire.
Burning out canoes. The Cherokee craftsmen make their canoes from yellow poplar. The traditional method is to burn away the core of the log to create a dugout-like form. Burning out the hull would take about 6-8 months. The fire must be periodically tended and controlled with earth and clay as the embers turn a great log into a lightweight 30-40 foot canoe with a uniform one-inch-thick hull. The primary uses for canoes were transportation and fishing. Typically, the canoes were 2-3 feet wide and held approximately 12 men. After cutting down the tree, the bark was stripped off, clay was packed around the top, and small fires statred along the top of the log. After the fire went out, a stone ax was used to chip away the charcoal. Animal fats and pine resin were used to make the canoes waterproof.
Mask making. Cherokee mask makers worked with many different types of woods in their carvings. Masks were made from soft woods like poplar and buckeye and were used in ceremonial dances. The Eastern tribes did not use a lot of feathers in their dances, unlike tribes to the west. Instead they used carved masks to imitate people or animals.
Centuries-old techniques handed down from generation to generation, are used to make masks. Before the introduction of modern tools, masks were made from tree bark. Holes for the eyes, nose, and mouth would have been carved using a knife made of flint. Animal fur or feathers would be have been attached to show which kind of animal was being represented. The Cherokee used the masks in their ceremonial dances. The dance was a form of prayer - to give thanks, to ask for protection, and to ask for a bountiful hunt or harvest.
Smoke from the various craft areas wafts throughout the forest. Adjacent to the village is a nature trail allowing visitors to walk through the woods and see the plants, trees, and flowers indigenous to the Western North Carolina area and used by the Cherokee for food and medicines.
Enjoy the traditional Cherokee dances:
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Marilyn said...


And yes, I do have a tipsy tower in my garden.

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