Photo of clouds Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources

About RTCAR - Cherokee Artistic Tradition

The unique artistry of Cherokee basket weavers, potters and other artisans conveys a personal link to their ancestors dating back over many thousands of years. Learning from their families and community, they use materials native to the southern Appalachians and merge their creativity with everyday needs to produce beautiful and functional works.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is perhaps best known for the quality of its artisans' baskets. Weavers have had access to many materials, but historically, they preferred river cane over all others. The material was abundant and durable, but more than that, river cane has a connection with the flowing water that spiritually is so important to the Cherokee. More recently, white oak became important to Cherokee weavers, reflecting a growing forest emphasis as control of the land—and the land itself—has changed.

Today, sources of both river cane and white oak are in scarce supply in western North Carolina. RTCAR's purpose is to help the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians restore the traditional Cherokee balance between maintaining and using natural resources, and initially, its focus is on river cane and white oak.

In preserving their culture, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is faced with a modern-day quandary. Younger Cherokees have many more occupational options than their ancestors had, and they need not make Cherokee artistic traditions their life's work out of necessity. While the wider career choices are a good thing, it is critical that the tribe's artistic heritage be preserved and expanded upon.

In response to this challenge, Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual, an outstanding cooperative owned and operated by Cherokee artists, has created a community outreach program in Cherokee schools and communities. Through a series of workshops, artists share their knowledge and pride in workmanship with anyone in the tribe who is interested, and some of the workshop participants are teenagers and slightly younger children who come to learn about basket weaving and other Cherokee crafts.

RTCAR will assist the Eastern Band as the tribe develops new ways to capture Cherokee youths' interest in their cultural heritage and light their imaginations so their generation will not only carry on Cherokee artistic traditions, but add its own innovations along the way.