Diligwa Opens at Cherokee Heritage Center

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New village portrays most authentic Cherokee experience based in early 1700's.

Diligwa opened at Cherokee Heritage Center on Monday. The village accurately represents a Cherokee Village in 1710.

Cherokee Heritage Center officials celebrated Monday the opening of Diligwa, a new village portraying the most authentic Cherokee experience based on life in 1710.

Diligwa replaces the Ancient Village, which opened in 1967 and was originally designed as an interpretive area to showcase Cherokee daily life prior to European contact. The new village is a more accurate representation of the past due to the resources available today and more in-depth research.

“This is a monumental moment for the Cherokee Heritage Center,” said Cheryl Parrish, interim executive director for the Cherokee Heritage Center. “Our mission is to preserve and promote Cherokee culture, and Diligwa allows us to do that better than ever by more accurately showing what life was like 300 years ago.”

Diligwa is a name derivative of Tellico, a village in the east that was once the principal Cherokee town and is now underwater. Tellico was the Cherokee Nation capital and center of commerce before the emergence of Echota in Monroe County, Tenn. Tellico was often referred to as the “wild rice place” and became synonymous with a native grain that grew in the flat open spaces of east Tennessee.

Many believe when the Cherokees first arrived in Indian Territory, the native grasses that grew in the open spaces around the foothills of the Ozarks reminded them of the grassy open areas of Tellico. They called their new home “Di li gwa,” Tah-le-quah or Teh-li-co, “the open place where the grass grows.”

“We created a world-class venue that gives users a firsthand look into the Cherokee Nation’s culture and traditional lifeways,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “The new village will be an authentic educational experience for Cherokees and non-Cherokees alike. We are proud to use this new setting to promote the tribe’s history and ensure our culture tourism efforts remain second to none.”

The new village provides visitors the chance to experience Cherokee life in the early 18th century and features 19 wattle and daub structures, 14 interpretive stations, and a detailed historic landscape set on four acres of land adjacent to the Cherokee Heritage Center.

Visitors can witness daily life as they are guided through the interpretive stations where crafts are demonstrated, stories are told, and Cherokee lifeways are explained.

Diligwa includes eight residential sites, each with a Cherokee summer house and winter house, which will soon feature a corn crib, a “kitchen garden” and additional landscaping, including the placement of foliage at the fenced perimeter. The public complex consists of the primary council house and summer council pavilion overlooking a large plaza that served as the center of community activity.

In addition, two recreation areas featuring a marble field and stickball field will showcase the Cherokee games that are still played today.

Rounding out the list of contributors is Tom J. and Edna Mae Carson Foundation, $250,000; Cherokee Nation Businesses, $250,000; Mary K. Chapman Foundation, $100,000; Boyd Group, $36,000; and the Gelvin Foundation, $2,500.

The project began with planning and design from Feb. 2007 to Dec. 2010. Implementation began with site preparation from Jan. to July 2011, and construction began in Oct. 2011.

The Cherokee Heritage Center is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive, Park Hill, OK 74451. It is the premier cultural center for Cherokee tribal history, culture and the arts. For information on the 2013 season events, operating hours and programs, please contact the Cherokee Heritage Center at (888) 999-6007 or visit http://www.CherokeeHeritage.org. It can also be found on Facebook by searching “Cherokee Heritage Center.”

B-Roll footage of Monday’s events and sound bites are available at http://www.cherokeenationbusinesses.com/newsroom/.

About Cherokee Heritage Center

The Cherokee Heritage Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the premier cultural center for Cherokee tribal history, culture and the arts. Located in the heart of the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Okla., it was established in 1963 by the Cherokee National Historical Society to preserve and promote the Cherokee culture. The Cherokee Heritage Center is also home to the Cherokee National Archives, which is the Nation’s foremost collection of historic tribal related documents and artifacts from the 1700s through present day. The Cherokee Heritage Center is situated on the grounds of the original Cherokee Female Seminary, which is one of the first institutions of higher learning for women west of the Mississippi and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service has designated the Center as the interpretive site for the western terminus of the Trail of Tears for the Cherokees and other tribes forcibly removed to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, during the 1800s. Opening in June is Diligwa, the grounds’ new ancient village. For more information, please visit http://www.CherokeeHeritage.org.

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Tim Landes
Cherokee Nation Businesses
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