Kituhwa Mound - Cherokee, North Carolina
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Manville Possum
N 35° 26.327 W 083° 24.064
17S E 282053 N 3924353
Quick Description: The site of Kituhwa, Mother Town of the Cherokee. From the study of stone points found at Kituwah, some archaeologists estimate the site has been occupied for over 10,000 years. The council house on the mound was destoryed by British Soilders in 1776
Location: North Carolina, United States
Date Posted: 9/30/2011 12:49:11 PM
Waymark Code: WMCPP3
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member fisnjack
Views: 10

Long Description:
The Kituwah Mound

The land has always been honored and respected by the Cherokee. It is considered sacred and not to be abused. The land was honored by the Cherokee because the land contained the dust of their ancestors and this was the place where they were put by Unethlvnvhi - Creator - to live and to take care of.

And to the Cherokee, no place is more sacred than The Kituwah Mound. Located in a cool, green valley, nestled deep within the Great Smoky Mountains in Cherokee country, is an unimposing mound only 170 feet in diameter and five feet high. But its size belies its importance to the Cherokee. The was Kituwah, the place of the “first fire” establishing them as a people. This was Kituwah, a few hundred acres of pasture bordering the Tuckagee River of North Carolina, the place of the stories that the grandmothers told about, about the way the river turns, about the smell of the damp grass first thing in the morning.

For the most part of the 20th century it had been in the hands of others. Each spring, the European settlers plowed, cultivated and farmed the valley, each year the mound growing smaller and smaller, hidden by shoulder-high corn. In 1996, this land once again became Cherokee land. Since then the tribe has disagreed over the future of the property; some wanting economic development, the other for the spiritual preservation due to its significance as an historic site. In the end, it was ogana (groundhog) who pointed the way. More on that later. In the words of Tom Belt, now a counselor for at-risk Native American Youth, “It’s easy to imagine how this flat piece of land, surrounded by the peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains, was prized as a refuge. This was where the people were first given fire, this is where it all began. This place wasn’t just a town - this was like the Vatican. This was the Cherokee “holiest of holies.”

From the study of stone points found at Kituwah, some archaeologists estimate the site has been occupied for over 10,000 years. Pottery and other evidence indicate that the Cherokee have been here for at least 800 years. For centuries, the massive, round council house stood atop the mound, protecting the Cherokee’s sacred hearth - the fire. In annual ceremonies, the people would come to Kituwah from the surrounding settlements to light their fires from the source. James Mooney wrote in his 1900 ethnography Myths of the Cherokee that members of the tribe “frequently speak of themselves as Anikitu’hwagi and that the name was used in council to indicate genuine Cherokee feeling in its highest form.” Today, Kituwah lies near the Eastern Band’s Reservation, a time enclave where some 12,000 tribal members live.

There is no doubt that Kituwah Mound and the village that surrounded it were once the spiritual center of a nation that sprawled over seven modern states, equal in size to the present day Virginia, or half the size of Great Britain. The European invasion brought drastic changes to the Cherokee resulting in a series of punitive raids by British soldiers, who razed Kituwah in 1761 and 1776. Hardship, population pressure, and false treaties pushed the Cherokee farther and farther into the Great Smoky Mountains. And then there were the 16,000 or so Cherokee who were removed from their land by Andrew Jackson’s infamous Indian Removal Act, rammed through Congress in 1830. Thousands died on that journey - a journey that became known as the Trail of Tears - a journey where close to a fourth of their number died from hunger and exposure. A few managed to remain behind, foregoing their Cherokee ties to become US citizens but enabling them to stay in the remote valleys near Kituwah.

One spring recently a tribal member was working in his garden within sight of the Kituwah Mound when he came across part of a skull, a jawbone, and other human bones lying in loose dirt unearthed by ogana (groundhog). It didn’t take long for police to determine these were not recent bones. There were many who say ogana was an omen and joked that ogana was a true tribal archaeologist. There have been small excavations around the site, but the mound itself is too sensitive to touch. Instead, a device known as a flux-gradiometer that measures magnetic anomalies in the soil was used to authenticate the site. What emerged was a grainy, black and white image, showing the distinct outline of buried, burned walls that once belonged to a series of massive, round council houses built successively one on top of the other. In the center was a dark mass, the magnetic image of a centuries-old hearth.

The future of the site is still unclear, but preservationists and archaeologists are optimistic and tribal officials now say that large-scale development is unlikely. At Kituwah, the Cherokee took control of their history and put archaeologists to work in their interest.

Local tribal members continue to hold picnics on the banks of the river, within sight of Kituwah. They keep the mound mowed, all except for a tuft of high grass at the very center. In among the tall grass are little piles of fresh, red dirt. They represent an old tradition. For centuries, visitors to the sacred mound brought earth from their hearths - from their homes - to add to the mound. In an emotional ceremony held in 1998, several hundred children from the reservation’s elementary school gathered at the mound. All of them had been asked to bring a bag of dirt from their homes to spread on the mound. To the delight of the organizers and teachers, not one came to school that day empty-handed. Standing on the mound, Tom Belt chokes up the memory. “You’re talking about kids who can’t speak Cherokee, who watch TV all the time. All of a sudden they reach back in time and say that’s part of who we are. The very first rebuilding of the mound, it was the children who did it. Our ancestors are buried here. That’s what they needed to see. When we begin to do these things again, who we are begins to mean something again.”

Source: (visit link)

In 2010, the Kituwah site was at the center of a major controversy involving Cherokee cultural heritage and big business. In December of 2009 Duke Energy began clearing a site which overlooked the Kituwah Mound site. They were planning to build a $52 million dollar electrical substation on the site, but had not consulted with tribal leaders or locals about the impact that such development would have on the sacred historical site. A grassroots movement quickly took shape and launched a campaign to Save Kituwah. Tribal leader from both the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as well as the Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band all spoke out in opposition to the substation proposed site. The situation was widely reported and followed by the media throughout the country. Finally in early August of 2010, Duke Energy announced that they would move the planned substation to a new site away from Kituwah. The announcement marks a major victory for tribal community rights, cultural preservation, and grassroots political movements.

Today you can view the village site and mound either from the highway or the walking and bird watching trail that leads by the mound and to the river. The trailhead coordinates to this listing were taken at the parking area along the highway at the entrance near the information sign placed by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. The mound is enclosed by a picket fence, and only should be viewed from outside of the fence. There is a trail that enters from the East side of the mound and leads to the center to a small patch of red Earth, which is there for cultural purposes in the rebuilding of the mound.
Trailhead: N 35° 26.371 W 083° 24.202

Type: Burial Mounds

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