Kituwah is a concept much larger than the mound site proper, which is recorded with the state register of historic places. The name signifies the mothertown of the Cherokee, a kind of original community with which all Cherokees identify.
“The boundaries of Kituwah aren’t confined to the area. It’s intrinsic to the heart and soul of the Cherokee people,” said Tom Belt, a professor of Cherokee Language and Culture at Western Carolina University.
Belt explained Cherokees as far west as Memphis would have identified themselves as Kituwah during the 1600s.
But the tribe lost control of the Kituwah village in the years preceding their forced removal from their ancestral land in Western North Carolina.
During most of the last century and a half, the land has been under agricultural cultivation as part of a tract called Ferguson’s Field.
The Eastern Band bought 309 acres around the mound site in 1996, and an archeological survey the following year discovered a 65-acre village site that confirmed the long term of settlement.
The mound, 170 feet in diameter and five feet tall, formed the base for the council house where the Cherokee conducted some of their most sacred ceremonies.
Belt explained that the concept of the Kituwah mothertown for the Cherokee would encompass the entire area within a day’s walk of the council house. But Belt said the actual valley and its mountains play crucial roles in spiritual ceremonies held on the solstices and in the cosmology that support the tribe’s clan structure.
“On those days if you stand at the mound where the council house was, the very place the light hits first is on the seven peaks on that mountain where the substation will be built,” Belt said.