October 12-13, 2012
Storytelling and Panel Discussion Featuring Cherokee Leaders
Without a knowledge of Cherokee culture and history, the appreciation of Southern Appalachia would be limited. The Cherokee have lived in the southern Appalachian area for thousands of years, perhaps since 9,000 BCE. In the nineteenth century James Mooney collected tales and recorded histories told by the Cherokee people who remained in North Carolina after the Trail of Tears took the majority to Oklahoma in the late 1830s. These tales and histories, the traditions of the people, reveal not only their values, but also the extent of the foundations upon which present day Appalachia rests. The history of this region remains tied to the actions that perpetrated the Removal to Oklahoma and to the resulting settlements by Europeans. But before that, people from multiple ethnicities intermarried and adapted to each other’s way of life. These adaptations are a part of communities throughout the region. Take food, for example. It would be impossible to prepare a traditional Appalachian meal, which is sometimes called Southern, sometimes Soul, without Cherokee influences, and so what is Southern and what is Soul is Cherokee.
In our attempt to explore the many facets of the whole of Southern Appalachian culture our mission is to educate in ways that lead to greater understanding. Freeman Owle, who makes education his life’s work, strives to “correct some popular misconceptions: that Cherokees live in tipis, that they live off money from the government, that they’re getting rich from gambling. He wants to show that the Cherokee are people, too—that they’ve always had feelings, that they’ve always been religious, and that they were literate and civilized at the time of the Removal.” 
The 2012 Southern Appalachian Culture event features storytelling, a strong element of Cherokee culture which reaches back and back, but which is still vitally present. Also there will be an opportunity for conference attendees to interact with members of the 21st century leadership on the Qualla Boundary during a panel discussion on Saturday morning. We hope that in informal conversations, attendees will raise questions that allow further discussion and increased understanding and appreciation.
 Barbara R. Duncan, ed. Living Stories of the Cherokee. (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 194.