Learning Ecological Balance from the Snowbird Cherokee

Great Smoky MountainsTrip Overview:

In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law, which set the stage for the forcible removal of thousands of Native Americans from their homelands in the Southeastern United States. In 1838, the U.S. government forced some 13,000 Cherokee to march to Oklahoma along what has become known as the Trail of Tears. About one-third of the Cherokee died en route of malnutrition and disease. Altogether, about 100,000 natives, including Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw survived the journey. A handful of Cherokee led by Yonaguska disobeyed the government edict, however. Hiding out in the Great Smoky Mountains, they managed to elude US troops and to survive. In 1889, the 56,000-acre Qualla Indian Boundary was chartered with a population of about 1,000 people. Approximately 10,500 of their descendants now live on the Qualla Boundary, which is located along the Great Smoky Mountain National Park's southern boundary. They are known as the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.

The Snowbird Cherokee are a small community of the Eastern Band who live in Robbinsville, NC. They may be the most traditionalist of the Eastern Band communitiesKids from Snowbird Cherokee, making strong efforts to preserve their language and their traditional crafts. The Snowbird Cherokee live in a very rural, mountain community.  Participants on this trip will work with senior citizens and youth, and with various Cherokee agencies such as the Health Clinic, Child Development Center, Youth Recreation Center, Sequoyah Museum, and Senior Citizen Center.  Participants also do home maintenance projects for elderly and/or disabled Cherokee residents.

In addition to spending time learning from and serving with the Snowbird Cherokee, participants will engage in environmental work in the Great Smoky Mountians. This national park is both the most visited park in the US and the only one without an entrance fee. Therefore, they rely on volunteers for much of the work involved in maintaining ecological balance in the park, including removing invasive plant species and planting native trees and grasses.

Trip Hosts:

During the trip, the group will be housed, fed, and facilitated by the staff at Once Upon a Time. Cabin at OUATParticipants will experience life on a rural Appalachain mountain farm. Staying in cabins, picking the organically grown fruits and vegetables, splitting firewood and canning blackberry jam will all be part of the experience. Hosts Ed and Arleen Decker demonstrate sustainable living, growing much of their food, building their furniture, and constructing their cabins out of wood felled on their own property.


Sample Itinerary:

Saturday –Drive to Once Upon a Time

Sunday – Homesteading activities - splitting wood, planting garden, etc.; 1 mile hike; Welcome and Orientation session

Monday – Snowbird Cherokee Community; service projects; learn Cherokee game - the Fish Game; spend night in a church in Snowbird

Tuesday – Continue service in Snowbird Community; hike at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest; return to Once Upon a Time

Wednesday – Day off for recreation in the area (possibilities: hiking, rafting, tour the Lost Sea)

Thursday – Service projects either in Cherokee National Forest or Great Smoky Mountains

Friday – Service either at Sequoyah Museum or The Howie Farm in Cherokee National Forest

Saturday –Depart for Gettysburg

Location: Maryville, TN
Dates: March 8-15, 2014
Cost: $625
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Sample Itinerary
Trip Leader: Melissa Rich


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