Diligwa village celebrates first anniversary

Former Reporter
06/12/2014 08:38 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Diligwa village performers play stickball at the village, which is located at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The village turned 1 year old on June 3. Visitors can witness ancient Cherokee life as they are guided through village stations where crafts are demonstrated, stories are told and life ways are explained. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Heritage Center Diligwa villager Noel Grayson inspects a musket during a demonstration of villagers interacting with European traders at the CHC in Park Hill, Okla. The Diligwa village celebrated its first anniversary on June 3. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center’s Diligwa village, where guests are provided with an enhanced experience of authentic Cherokee life and history, celebrated its first anniversary in June.

Located on the CHC’s grounds, it’s an outdoor Cherokee town set in the 1700s where visitors can witness how Cherokees traded with European settlers. Tribal officials opened the attraction on June 3, 2013.

“In celebration of Diligwa’s one-year anniversary we are having recreations of trade encounters that would have been happening in 1710 in Cherokee villages,” Dr. Candessa Tehee, CHC executive director, said. “So we are going to have someone who is representing a trader; we’re going to have a Cherokee man and a Cherokee woman who are involved in a trade interaction.”

Visitors can see villagers interact with “European traders” to understand how trade functioned in a Cherokee village.

“It has a lot to do with how the Cherokees first started to trade and how our society and culture starts to change in the 1710 period,” villager Danny McCarter said.

McCarter, who has worked at the CHC for more than 30 years, said the attraction helps educate visitors about the Cherokee people.

The trade demonstration includes a Cherokee man and woman negotiating with a European settler. One item Cherokees sought was the lightweight cotton shirt because it was more breathable, easy to repair and allowed them to focus on other tasks instead of making clothing from deerskin.

While visiting the village, which took two years to construct, visitors are guided through stations where crafts are demonstrated, stories are told and life ways are explained.

“Whenever you arrive you are greeted inside of an open air structure. There is seating there that is made of river cane, so you’ll be greeted by your tour guide there and then you’ll be take to the first summer and winter home, which is sort of our trade area,” Tehee said. “And whenever you enter that area, you’re told about how trade would’ve happened, how many furs a musket costs and things like that. From there you make your way down to the finger-weaving station where they talk about some of the textile arts that we had.”

The village includes eight residential summer and winter homes, a corncrib and a kitchen garden, 14 interpretive stations, a primary council house and summer council pavilion and a stickball field area.

Tehee said after the finger-weaving station, visitors are directed to the blowgun area and then the stickball area where they can participate in a stickball game.

“And they will move around to pottery where they are able to view pottery and be educated about the roll and coil method that Cherokee potters use, stamping and paddles, pinch pots,” she said. “And then they move to the bow-making station where flint napping and bow making are demonstrated.”

Tehee added that visitors also see a basketry demonstration area before going to the council house where information about dances and the seven clans is provided.

Tehee said that during the first year more than 40,000 people visited Diligwa.

“In 1967 when the original ancient village was constructed, and we have actually recently completed demolition and cleanup on that area, it was the biggest tourist attraction in Oklahoma for the first 10 years of its opening. It was unparalleled in terms of tourism,” she said. “So for us now to be able to take historically accurate information, so we’re able to get the size of the homes accurately portrayed in the village that we have, it’s really amazing.”

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.”

“People hear about Diligwa. They hear about the new village and they had experienced the ancient village with their fathers or their grandparents or on a school trip many years ago, and they want to bring their kids through and they want to come and experience the new village the same way they experienced the new one. And we’ve had a lot of comments on that from people who come through that they just want to experience the new village, so we try to accommodate them as best as we can,” Tehee said.

Diligwa tours are offered every half hour from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information, 918-456-6007.


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