CHC officially opens Diligwa village
6/5/2013 8:34:02 AM
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Feather Smith-Trevino explains the game of Cherokee stickball on June 3 during an inaugural tour of the new Diligwa village at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. In the background, villagers demonstrate how the game is played. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Feather Smith-Trevino explains the game of Cherokee stickball on June 3 during an inaugural tour of the new Diligwa village at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. In the background, villagers demonstrate how the game is played. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ Senior Reporter PARK HILL, Okla. – With speeches, a ribbon cutting and tours, Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Heritage Center officials on June 3 publicly opened Diligwa, the center’s new outdoor Cherokee village set in 1710. Located on the CHC’s grounds, Diligwa provides guests with an enhanced experience of authentic Cherokee life and history. Alfie Vick, a University of Georgia professor whose specialty is landscape architecture, helped design Diligwa. “This is the most historically accurate recreation of an early contact Cherokee town in existence today,” Vick said. Because of his study in Cherokee heritage plants in the southeast, Vick was asked to help landscape the Diligwa grounds. He said orchards of peach, apple and plum trees would be planted in the village as well as communal cornfields and a river cane break along the village stream, which is being constructed. Funding for the village did not arrive all at once. Cherokee Nation Businesses recently donated $250,000 to finish the $1.2 million interpretive village. The village took five years to design and work crews have spent two years constructing Cherokee summer and winter homes on four acres. Other features such as plants, a ball game area, marble field and paths still need to be completed. Diligwa features 19 wattle and daub structures and 14 interpretive stations. Visitors can witness Cherokee life in 1710 as they are guided through the stations where crafts are demonstrated, stories are told and life ways are explained. Overall, the village includes eight residential sites each with summer and winter homes, a corncrib and a kitchen garden. The public complex consists of the primary council house and summer council pavilion overlooking a large plaza that serves as the center of community activity. Jace Weaver, director of the Institute of Native American Studies at the University of Georgia, said he and Vick have brought students to the CHC to learn about Cherokee culture for the past six years. During that time Weaver said he and Vick were asked to assist with creating Diligwa. “I was thrilled and immediately said yes without asking Alfie because I first went through the Tsa-La-Gi (Cherokee) village at 10 years old...and have been back many times since,” Weaver said. The two men were also involved with helping find the original footprint of the Cherokee Female Seminary, which burned down in 1887, and with an exhibition about the seminary. The seminary site was reclaimed in 1966 when the clearing of land began for the CHC’s Ancient Village, which opened in 1967. The center’s amphitheater opened in 1969 and museum in 1973. This year the center is celebrating the 50th anniversary of when the Cherokee National Historical Society, the organization that operates the CHC, was formed in 1963. “Of all the projects the Institute of Native American Studies at the University of Georgia has taken on around the country, these projects with the Cherokee Nation and the Heritage Center are those I am the most proud of,” Weaver said. “We stand ready to help with any project in the Nation at any time.” Vick said a Diligwa feature that accentuates accuracy is that it sits on a flat area, as Cherokee villages sitting near a river or flood plain would have been in the early 1700s. Also, the village’s council house is on a slightly elevated mound because Cherokees emulated Mississippian mound builders in the southeast. “Like Jace said, we really value our participation and inclusion in the creation of this town,” Vick said. 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 today’s Monroe County, Tenn. Tellico was often referred to as the “wild rice place” and became synonymous with a native grain that grew in the flats of east Tennessee. Many believe when the Cherokees arrived in Indian Territory, the native grasses that grew around the foothills of the Ozarks reminded them of the grassy 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.” Since the Ancient Village opened, it has been the top attraction for visitors. It is expected Diligwa will continue to be the main attraction for the CHC. Diligwa was funded by endowments from CNB, the Tom J. and Edna Mae Carson Foundation, Mary K. Chapman Foundation, Boyd Group and Mary Ellen Meredith. will-chavez@cherokee.org 918-207-3961
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