Overview

The Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources (RTCAR) initiative is a grantmaking program whose purpose is to assist the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as the tribe works to restore the traditional Cherokee balance between maintaining and using natural resources like river cane, white oak and clay. RTCAR has been undertaken to teach, protect and promote Cherokee traditional art, resources and land care for present and future generations.

Traditional tribal practices ensured that Cherokee people used natural resources with respect, but over the past century, development, agriculture and tourism in western North Carolina have taken a toll on the environment.  The imbalances that have caused modern-day shortages of natural resources have been especially apparent to Cherokee basket weavers, potters and carvers.

Cherokee cultural traditions are seriously challenged by the disappearance of quality river cane in the southeastern United States and the serious blight affecting butternut, an important dye plant. For Cherokee artisans, it is impossible to separate the environment that surrounds them from the art that they create.  RTCAR is focused on basket making materials and associated dye plants, clay for potters and materials for carvers.

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Teaching Cherokee youth about the EBCI’s artistic traditions is another aspect of RTCAR. In 2000, only two members of the EBCI were regularly creating double-weave baskets.  With the help of RTCAR funding over the past decade, 16 of the 24 artists now working in double-weave learned to weave at Cherokee High School.

RTCAR receives most of its support from Cherokee Preservation Foundation and is operated by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension program.