Tennessee State Parks, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian, and the Cherokee Nation will host the first-ever Cherokee Heritage Festival at Red Clay State Park on August 2 and 3. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Red Clay is an interpretive site on the National Park Service’s Trail of Tears Historic Trail and is honored by Cherokee people today as sacred ground.
Prior to the Cherokee Removal in 1838, the Cherokee Nation claimed land that included parts of Southeast Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Today, the legacy of the Cherokee people continues in this region through the natural, historical and cultural landscape. Red Clay State Historic Park, located just south of Cleveland, is one of these sites.
The Cherokee Heritage Festival, which will take place on the historic grounds of Red Clay State Historic Park outside of Cleveland, will focus on the formation of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Red Clay will have two Cherokee leaders on tap to speak during the festival. On Saturday, Aug. 2, the Honorable Terri Henry, the first female chairperson of the Tribal Council for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, will speak during a time to be announced. On Sunday, August 3, Principal Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will speak to festival participants.
During the festival, the park will dedicate its newest addition, the Seven Clans Sculpture, which was carved this spring by Cherokee artists John Grant and Alva Crowe, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Sculpted into the stump of a tree that was downed two years ago by lightning, Grant carved the masks of the seven clans of the Cherokee culture into seven remaining stumps of the centuries-old tree that grew along the wooded edges of the park. The formation, which will be dedicated on Saturday, Aug. 2, has been supported bythe Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Red Clay, and the Tennessee Arts Council.
An exhibit featuring documents, pictures and Cherokee artwork that tells the story of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will be on display in the James F. Corn Museum at Red Clay State Historic Park during the festival. The exhibit’s creator, Dr. Michael Abram, will speak about the culture of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
The festival will also feature noted Southern herbalist and writer Darryl Patton, who will lead hikes and provide live demonstrations about how to use various plants found around Red Clay and the South.
Other activities during the festival will include traditional dances, games, guided tours through the park, foods, storytelling, Cherokee stickball, guided hikes, and a quilt raffle. Park staff will portray history through interactive, living interpretations of Native Americans and early settlers from the early 19th century.
Nolichucky Films, in association with Red Clay State Historic Park, will begin filming a new interpretive film to describe the events that occurred at Red Clay and that led to the infamous Trail of Tears.
There is a $5 charge for parking for the event.