This project revolves around research of primary historical archives to reconstruct historic Cherokee geography, in particular, that which pertains to travel, ecology and the landscape of the Cherokee territorial claim, circa 1700. Much of the old Cherokee trails network lies buried underneath and alongside the modern transportation system of North Carolina and the surrounding states. Some remnants can still be walked on public lands managed by the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.
White traders who resided within the Cherokee Nation since the late 1600’s brought the latest European technologies to the North American indigenous nations. Dependence on commerce and trade was a blessing and a curse for the Cherokees. Weapons enabled them to harvest enough deerskins to upgrade and enjoy an easier lifestyle and to fight their martial enemies. Iron and copper cookware was much more durable than clay. Cloth was light and cooler than deerskin clothes.
But with trade came British regulations and an undercurrent of potential boycott of powder and lead when relations between the Indians and whites broke down. What began as a few trade goods brought over the mountains by pack horse became the impetus to widen the principle trading paths to wagon roads. The alteration of the ancient, narrow mountain trails to accommodate wagons would later be used by British Armies to subjugate the Cherokee Nation for the British Crown. A people who lived free for millennia would have their ancient lines moved again and again until their mountain paradise was devoured by European immigrants and their descendants. The simple widening of a Cherokee trail became the “Trojan Horse” that would lead to catastrophe.