Tourism is a principal driver of the economy on the Qualla Boundary, even as economic diversification takes place. Cherokee Preservation Foundation has invested $17 million over the past decade to help the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians continually improve the Tribe’s principal cultural attractions, mount an award-winning marketing campaign to attract visitors interested in experiencing authentic Cherokee culture, and improve the marketing capacity of the organizations.
Four principal cultural attractions bring thousands of visitors to Cherokee, NC, each year – the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual, the Oconaluftee Indian Village, and “Unto These Hills,” a play that retells the Trail of Tears and explains how the ancestors of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians managed to avoid the forced removal. The Village and the drama are operated by Cherokee Historical Association.
Multiple grants from Cherokee Preservation Foundation have helped each of these wonderful organizations develop business plans to ensure their long-term sustainability, improve and expand their programming and make it more culturally authentic, significantly upgrade and expand their facilities, improve operating systems, and provide opportunities for the development of their staffs and boards.
The Foundation has also helped the cultural entities partner with the EBCI Marketing and Promotion Department, the Sequoyah National Golf Club, EBCI Transit, EBCI Fish & Game, and the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce to produce a distinctive, culture-based marketing campaign oriented toward attracting both families and visitors who want a high-quality cultural experience when they visit Cherokee. Those experiences include special festivals funded by the Foundation, including the Cherokee Art Market in July, the Festival of Native Peoples in August and the Southeastern Tribes Arts Festival in September. These partners have formed the Greater Cherokee Tourism Council and one of their initial actions has been to improve their marketing capacity by participating in a Cherokee Marketing College funded by the Foundation.
Support from the Foundation to the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce makes possible the Cherokee Friends – EBCI members in traditional tribal dress who welcome visitors and provide information to them.
The Foundation makes these investments because when visitors come to Cherokee and have a wonderful time, they spend on lodging, food, gifts and entertainment, and that benefits the local community. And just as important, the work of the principal cultural attractions enables the EBCI to preserve and celebrate its Cherokee heritage.