Keith, tell us a little about your connection to the Cherokee.
“The Cherokee were my neighbors and some of the best farmers in the county. I went to school with them. As a result, I grew up with Cherokee stories, and those are the basis for my book. Several of those stories have powerful meaning for the Cherokee and took place in Transylvania County.”
Can you give us a little background on Cherokee history in Transylvania County?
“The Cherokee do not have a written history. A lot of what we do know about them comes from early settlers. There were several small Cherokee villages in Transylvania County including near Dunn’s Rock, where I grew up. The Cherokee would work in one area, hunting and farming, and then move to another area. We know from excavations that, at one time, they had large settlements very near the entrance to Pisgah National Forest at US276 and NC280, where Transylvania Regional Hospital is now.”
Were there other Indigenous tribes in Transylvania County?
“We’ve established that there were Cherokee here as early as 600 AD. Archaeologists have identified ‘Mississippian Mounds’ in Transylvania County, which point to a culture that was 600 to 1000 years before the Cherokee. The Cherokee were scattered about, trading with relatives in SC and GA. They fought the Catawbas, who were located east of Asheville. As the Catawba were killed and died out, many joined the Cherokee nation. The Creeks, in what is now Georgia and Alabama, were arch enemies. An archaeological dig in Parker’s Creek turned up points older than Clovis points.”
(Editor's Note: According to this source, Clovis points date to the Early Paleoindian period, with all known points dating from roughly 13,400 - 12,700 years ago.)
The early established trails created by the Cherokee – what was their main purpose?
“Originally, the trails were for travel between settlements, hunting, and fishing. After the early settlers arrived, the Cherokee began to trade furs, and those trails connected the Cherokee to markets for the furs.”