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Today is hailed as “Indigenous Peoples Day” on many calendars. However, I think that every day is just a sunshiny ripple in the ever-flowing river of life. That’s what Nikwasi Initiative celebrates.


Speaking of water, rivers have come to represent a lot of the work of the Nikwasi Initiative. Flowing water is the connective tissue of life and so we find ourselves interpreting culture in that aqueous medium. We are a core partner in the “Honoring Long Man” river celebration, and we’re working with a dream team of experts to develop a cultural river trail, or “blueway,” along some of our region’s navigable waters.


Along with rivers, culture and heritage are also ensconced in food. The Barbara McRae Cherokee Apple Trail has been planted and nurtured. It won’t be long before iridescent, crimson fruits are reflecting wonder and history about the people who first developed each variety of fruit. And that means it won’t be long before you can learn a little more about Cherokee values by tasting the crisp juice of a Junaluska, or Horse, or Cullasaga apple. Each time you are out on the greenway in Franklin, be sure to detour over to the apple trail. Watch it grow into a little orchard glade with a big message.


We couldn’t discuss Nikwasi Initiative without mentioning the care and stewardship of Noquisiyi, the mound in Franklin. This year, Noquisiyi hosted visitors from the Trail of Tears conference. Close to 200 people infused some new energy into the site and related their delight in our efforts to honor the people of Noquisiyi, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We’re busy exploring the possibilities for the learning center which will one day cast a steady eye on the mound via large glass windows overlooking that living world of ancient and modern melding. Remember, that Noquisiyi is a “Mother Town,” and what does a mother give her children but life and opportunity? Noquisiyi is robust with both of those characteristics and will soon be able to share them with a stream of curious learners.


Stay tuned to learn about the interpretive trails at the EBCI community forest and Junaluska Grave Site. These are graced by the generosity of The Wilderness Society & National Trust for Historic Preservation.


There is so much more going on in this world of heritage, history, and culture. To really get a feel for our work, please cruise through our webpage. Then if questions come up, we’d love to hear from you.


And, I’d like to close this short letter with heartfelt gratitude to the partners that are working on each of these projects. So many entities, both new and long-standing with Nikwasi Initiative make this body of work possible. To see all of the team, please visit our partners page on the webpage, and I’d like to introduce you, now, to just a few of the new partners that are helping to elevate our work to a new level. Mountain Bizworks, Invest Appalachia, Kituwah, LLC, and Appalachian Community Capital are combining talents to transform the old auto building at Noquisiyi into a vibrant learning center. Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the National Park Service, Expedition Unbound, and Smoky Mountain Host are a few of the groups helping to plan the blueway trails. And the Honoring Long Man team is tied to dedicated friends at the NC Arboretum, Asheville Greenworks, and American Rivers. And, there are so many more. I do encourage you to visit our partners page and learn who is filling the sails of our ship.


But one partner crests the head of all rivers in its heartfelt dedication to our work. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is the benefactor, mentor, and guide for our daily undertakings. To them, and all our associates, we extend humble gratitude.


Written in ever-flowing gratitude, like a river...



A Letter from the Executive Director

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