Blowgun, knives and traditional items stolen from Cherokee historical village

fr theftThe Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee was broken into recently. Sacred and traditional items used by re-enactors who portray early Native American life at the living history site were stolen.

The theft in question occurred overnight a couple weeks ago. According to assistant manager Davy Arch, someone went into one of the time period cabins and took an array of pieces that were stored in the loft of the building.

“It’s really rare for something like this to happen,” Arch said. “People have a lot of respect for the village and what we do here. Once in a great while we may have somebody come through and pick up something, but it’s rare to have anything taken from upstairs.”

Among the pieces taken was a flint knife and obsidian knife with bone handles, an elk horn, tomahawk pipe and a prized blowgun.

The 25-year-old blowgun, belonging to William “Juggie” Swimmer, was used in the demonstrations at the village daily. Swimmer is a world champion blowgun expert.

Though a new one has been made, the original blowgun was cherished and an invaluable item.

Made from hallowed-out rivercane (similar to bamboo), the blowgun, which can stand several feet high, is a weapon used to hunt small game and remains a revered sport of Cherokee culture. The shooter blows a dart through the chamber, a process that refines the accuracy and aim of the barrel over time. After 25 years of use, the blow gun was the epitome of perfection. 

“He was heartbroken it was stolen,” Arch said.

A puzzling aspect of the thefts is that most of the items, and the blowgun in particular, are so unique that their origin could be easily identified.

“Most of the pieces had more sentimental value than monetary,” Arch said.

Besides the missing pieces, Arch said the rest of the property remained untouched, with no sign of entry being found. He said there is a cash reward for recovery of the items.

“I think someone knew the things were there,” Arch said. “I think the thief was after the blowgun and the other objects taken were a crime of convenience.”

If anyone knows the whereabouts or any information leading to recovery of the items, please contact the Cherokee Historical Association at 828.497.2111 or 828.736.6393.

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