TAHLEQUAH, OK - The Cherokee Heritage Center’s new outdoor living exhibit is now in preliminary development and is scheduled to open June 2012.
After more than 40 years, the new exhibit represents a transformation of the Tsalagi Ancient Village, which opened in 1967 and was originally designed as an interpretive area showcasing everyday Cherokee life as it was prior to European contact. The Cherokee Heritage Center is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive, Park Hill, OK 74451.
The new outdoor living exhibit is estimated to cost $1.2 million, which includes an endowment for its continued care. To date, the Cherokee Heritage Center has raised more than $640,000.
“Knowing that a new village was needed, we have spent a lot of time over the past three years working with leading experts in various aspects of Cherokee research to create a new plan that incorporates significant archaeological discoveries and historical documentation that wasn’t available in the 1960s,” said Carey Tilley, Executive Director at the Cherokee Heritage Center. “The result is the most detailed and comprehensive scholarly look at early eighteenth-century Cherokee architecture and village layout compiled to date.”
The project planning and design phase was recently completed following a three-year research and planning process. The second phase of the project is expected to begin on site preparation and the extensive historic landscaping in the very near future.
During the first phase a residential housing pair featuring a winter house and summer house was constructed in the current Ancient Village to rediscover 300 year old building techniques. Both houses used a wattle and daub construction technique in which clay is packed (daubed) on river cane, branches, or saplings woven (wattled) in and out of upright wall posts and allowed to harden.
The new village will provide visitors the chance to experience Cherokee life in the early 18th century and will feature 20 wattle and daub structures, 14 interpretive stations, and a detailed historic landscape set on four acres of land adjacent to the Cherokee Heritage Center.
Visitors will have the opportunity to witness daily life as they are guided through the interpretive stations where crafts are demonstrated, stories are told, and Cherokee lifeways are explained.
The overall village includes eight residential sites each with a Cherokee summer house, and winter house, corn crib, “kitchen garden” and additional landscaping. The public complex consists of the primary council house and summer council pavilion overlooking a large plaza that served as the center of community activity. In addition, two recreation areas featuring a marble field and stickball field will showcase the Cherokee games that are still played today. The village will be anchored with native Cherokee foliage and flora with a re-circulating stream flowing across its eastern area.
“The new outdoor living exhibit is designed to introduce audiences to the Cherokee people and to help them understand the Cherokee culture as having a distinct history that was already ancient when their own written history began,” added Tilley.
The three phases for the new living exhibit consist of the recently completed phase one, which focused on planning and design and ran from Feb. 2007–Dec. 2010; phase two running from May-Aug. 2011 is now focusing on landscaping, site preparation and initial construction; and phase three will focus on final construction and furnishing and will run from Oct. 2011–May 2012.
The Cherokee Heritage Center plans to involve the Cherokee speaking community in the naming of the new village.
The Cherokee Heritage Center, which sits on a 49-acre complex, first opened to the public in 1967 under the leadership of Chief W.W. Keeler and the Cherokee National Historical Society. Today, in addition to the outdoor exhibits, the center is home to thousands of tribal historical objects, documents and photographs. The center features the Tsa-La-Gi Ancient Village, the Adams Corner Rural Village and various art shows, exhibits, and educational programs that are held throughout the year.