Cherokee Village Near Tahlequah Hopes To Bring The Past Alive

Wednesday, February 29th 2012, 4:55 pm
By: Craig Day

When you think of a new million dollar construction project, you might think of a shiny and modern building.

But that's not what is being built by the Cherokee Nation. It's a new, old tribal village being built near the Cherokee Heritage Center near Tahlequah.

Cherokee Nation workers are re-creating a fascinating part of the tribes past. The village is being built with old school materials, like clay mud.

Village Supervisor Tommy Wildcat is excited to be a part of the project to build 18 structures, including both ancient Cherokee summer and winter homes.

They're being reproduced with the exact dimensions of houses built in the early 1700s.

"I believe these are the most accurate homes built in over 200 years," Wildcat said.

When they're finished, living history interpreters will use the village as a tool to teach others about everyday Cherokee life around the time of European contact.

"I think we've pretty much nailed what these things looked like, what these towns looked like," said Carey Tilley, the center's executive director.

Since 1967, the Cherokees have had a living history village, attracting a million visitors. But those buildings are deteriorating and with new information since then from historians and archaeologists, it's a chance to start over with more knowledge.

"It was an opportunity to say, ok, what do we know now that we didn't know then?" Tilley said.

There's a lot of attention to historical accuracy with the project. Historical accounts and research show that the benches in the houses were built just high enough off the ground to thwart the attack of a flea. So that's how they made them.

It's that attention to detail that those working on the project believe will help bring many tribal members closer to their ancestors and visitors a sense of tribal history and heritage.

"When you can take that and share it with an audience, with visitors, with maybe the descendants of people who actually lived in these houses and give them a chance to remember that, it's pretty special," Tilley remarked.

Many of the new buildings in the village will be finished by Holiday Labor Day weekend and will be open for some tours like school groups.

It will be completely finished and open to the public in the spring of 2013.