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Cherokee Friends — Teaching new visitors old traditions

art frBy Wil Shelton • SMN intern

Visitors of the Qualla Boundary now have the opportunity to experience Cherokee culture in a new, interactive way. 

The Cherokee Friends, a program through the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, funded by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, aims to offer visitors a taste of Cherokee culture, as well as promote various sights around the community.

Dressed in 18th century Cherokee clothing, the Friends position themselves around various locations in town, engaging with visitors and providing information. 

“We are charged with enriching the experience of the patrons of Cherokee,” said Mike Crowe, manager of the Friends. “We are also sharing our culture and educating as well.”

The free programs will be available for longer presentations for groups who schedule a “Cherokee Experience” through the museum.

“My personal motivation for waking up in the morning and lacing up my moccasins [is to] dispel [the] stereotypes,” Crowe added. “There are over 500 tribes in the continental United States. We are all separate peoples with our own languages, dances, our own songs, history and cultures, and we are still here.”

Demonstrating everything from storytelling to traditional dances, carving to the chunkey game, the Friends hope to provide an authentic cultural experience to anyone who wants to learn. In addition, they acquired skills like making fire with a bow drill, and created their own moccasins. 

“What we are trying to do is change how people view the Cherokee culture,” said JD Arch, one of six selected to be a Friend. “When people see a Native American they automatically think head dresses, bright colors, war paint, and teepees.”

The museum also provided the Friends further training in archaeology, history, anthropology and folklore, and granted them access to archives and collections for research.

“We are here to educate,” said Sonny Ledford, another one of the Friends and educator of 30 years. “We had to take two weeks of classes to go over a lot of the [information] and certain dates of the history.” 

The Friends are selected based on their extensive knowledge as well as their ability to interact with the public. Each is well versed in Cherokee history, traditions and culture, and is more than willing to share. 

“When people come to Cherokee they want to see [authentic tribal members],” said James “Bo” Taylor, director of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. “What we’re trying to do is put our young men and women [out there] that really know about the culture, and are good ambassadors for the culture.”



Want to go?

The Friends will be scheduled in the Museum of the Cherokee Indian lobby and onstage at the Welcome Center, Saunooke Village and the Horseshoe in downtown Cherokee. They are more than willing to answer any questions as well as provide any information regarding Cherokee history and attractions in the area. 

Dates and times will be posted on the museum website at, and on the museum’s Facebook page. 

828.497.3481 (ext. 202) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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