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May 5, 2021


Dear Friends of Nokwisi Initiative,


Do you remember the first time you encountered a Native American mound?

Did you give yourself time to really embrace it?

Did you go home and research some of its history?

If the answer is “Yes”, then let’s share your stories! They are the links that bring people together in an embrace of culture. If your answer is, “No,” you may be glad to know that Nokwisi Initiative is making it easier for everyone to connect to local culture. I’m sure we have a project to excite you. Whether you like to connect around food, hiking, reading, or listening, you’ll find an effort that interests you. Read on to learn about a few of these endeavors and about our many partnerships.


First, though, I want to share that I’ve now been guiding Nokwisi Initiative for a year. Whoa! How did that blink-of-the-eye cover so much activity? Had you asked me 10 months ago, I might have wished to undertake Year-1 without the constraints of masks and containment, but do you know what? It’s been quite fortuitous. Working from home is a blessing for someone who immerses herself in learning, contemplation, and writing. I bike or jog on a mountain most mornings, and those are my intervals for free-association thinking. I’ll admit, some of those thoughts don’t make it back down the mountain, but many of them grow into the work of my day. Self-reminders and new ideas both get staged in the forest, then implemented when I’m back at my computer. And... who can feel anything but enthusiasm, after encountering yellow, downy goslings; tumbling cubs; pileated woodpeckers; or new pastel blossoms each and every morning. 


Oh yes, the projects...

I must write first of all about the “Barbara McRae Cherokee Heritage Apple Trail”. With Barbara’s name in the title, it could only be brimful of curiosity, wonder, and intrigue. This project was Barbara’s idea and we told her the orchard trail would be named for her so that her charm would be tasted in each bite of crisp apple flesh. Barbara taught us so many things and just one of them was about the adept Cherokee growers who bred new varieties of apples beginning just as soon as the first fruit samples landed on this continent. She reveled in the scientific exploration of those 19th century Cherokee farmers and she was pained by the knowledge that their lives’ achievements had been avulsed from their families and communities.  The Heritage Apple Trail will showcase a selection of apples that were actually developed by those pre-removal farmers. A short trail will be lined by mini-orchards, each depicting the history of locally named varieties of fruit.


Have you ever heard stories about Native American people who could match the pace of a horse over a 2-hour trot, or could run all day without a break? Perhaps some of the basis for that athleticism might have been the healthy foods that they ate. We could learn a lot from those old ways. And, Nokwisi Initiative has made that learning available to you. We partnered with Red Mesa Cuisine, LLC a company of Native American chefs to create 5 webinars on the gifts of Cherokee food wisdom. Those webinars are still available on our webpage. Just look to the bottom of the Home page. Have a watch, you might just find an urge to boost your health with Cherokee knowledge.


Every organization needs a plan, and we at Nikwasi Initiative did the hard work of creating one. Here’s the gist of it:

Our mission: Preserve, protect, and promote culture and heritage in the original homelands of the Cherokee people.

Our vision: Intercultural understanding is universal. (Won’t that be the day!)

Our values: Gadugi  (If you don’t know that word, ask a Cherokee speaker.)


Name: You’ll notice that we are sometimes writing Nokwisi instead of Nikwasi these days. It is time to listen to the interests of the Speakers and Elders who tell us that Nikwasi doesn’t mean anything; it is an anglicized version of the actual word, “No qui shi” and so we are in the process of converting in our hearts and on our papers.


We’re growing. We went from zero staff to two in just a year. Check out Jacqueline’s biography on our About - Staff page. I hope you get to meet her soon.


As you know, the Nokwisi Kiosk is installed, and the Oconaluftee Kiosk is under design.


Well, if you’ve read this far, you deserve a break. This has been a year of opportunity leading to action and producing success. It wouldn’t be possible without the ever-present gift of culture. Please take a look at your own culture and seek pride in it. Learn from it. Share it. Your culture doesn’t have to be the culture of a group, it is your perspective when viewing the world, and it can be personal as well as communal. Embrace your culture, and embrace your neighbors’ cultures. In that way, you will help assure that our world has a vibrant future.




Elaine Eisenbraun


A Letter from the Executive Director

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