By TYLER B. HOWE
This week, students from the Snowbird Language Camp participated in a centuries old Cherokee summer tradition. Landowners along the Nottely River graciously opened their home to host an event that combined science, fishing and swimming.
Students, parents, and faculty of the Snowbird Language Camp helped rebuild a fish weir on the Nottely River which had been damaged this past winter. A fish weir is a man made construction of rocks, shaped like a “v”, in a straight portion of a river which directs the fish into a central location where the larger fish are collected allowing the smaller fish to pass through the rocks. Traditionally, some of the fish enjoyed by the Cherokees of North Carolina were Stonerollers, Catfish, Hog Suckers, Mumbleheads, Redhorses, Brook Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Darters and Shiners.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Historic Preservation Office (EBCI THPO) organized a morning of science, and Cherokee culture and history classes, culminating in the Snowbird youth rebuilding the weir. Through nation-to-nation consultation between the EBCI THPO, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office this past winter, it was decided the best mitigation for the damaged weir was to host an event where Cherokee youth could participate in science classes and then help with the rebuilding of the fish weir.
“What makes this event on the Nottely River exciting,” noted Russell Townsend of the EBCI THPO, “is that Snowbird, Andrews and Murphy Cherokee youth get a sense of ownership of their heritage in the Hiwassee River watershed, including the Valley and Nottely Rivers, just as the youth from Cherokee receive at another annual fish weir event that occurs on the Tuckasegee River.”
Science lessons about aquatic habitats, water chemistry, riparian buffers, archeology, and Cherokee culture and history throughout the Hiwassee watershed were taught by representatives of the EBCI THPO, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition.
After reconstructing the fish weir, the Cherokee youth enjoyed a swim in the 74 degree river before diving into a great lunch provided by the neighborhood. The EBCI THPO related it is the hope to turn this science, culture and history day with the Cherokee youth into an annual event.
Tyler is a Tribal Historic Preservation Specialist.