Archaeological collections facility renovated with federal grant

Forensic anthropology student Katy Milke of West Palm Beach, Florida, files materials related to research conducted at a Plum Grove, Tennessee, site.

Western Carolina University has completed renovations to its holding facility for archaeological collections associated with the Cherokee, including objects from the Trail of Tears and the Unicoi Turnpike.

Funded by a $175,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service, the historic holdings, located on the ground floor of the McKee Building, now meet federal curation standards.

“The grant provided for complete rehabilitation of the facility and rehousing of our collections,” said Brett Riggs, WCU’s Sequoyah Distinguished Professor of Cherokee Studies. “Both for curatorial and research purposes, this upgrade was a major step for the university with its Cherokee collections.”

The grant, awarded in September 2017, designated funds be used for proper curation, cataloging, organization, conservation and study of the university’s archeological collections and other data. The holdings are now conserved within a climate controlled room, catalogued with easy access for researchers.

The Trail of Tears was the forced removal of the Cherokee from their homeland, including Western North Carolina, in the 1830s to present-day Oklahoma, and was known for its brutality and death toll. The Unicoi Turnpike was the primary route of the Trail of Tears from WNC to eastern Tennessee.

The ground upon which WCU stands was once home to the Cherokee, and the university’s ties to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are deep. WCU offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in Cherokee Studies, and boasts one of the largest regional collections of Cherokee-related materials.

The proposed name for the facility is “Tali Tsisgwayahi Archaeological Collections Curation Facility,” taken from the Cherokee phrase meaning “Two Sparrows Town” and written as ᏔᎵᏥᏍᏆᏯᎯ. Tali Tsisgwayahi was a historic name for the site that the WCU campus occupies today.