By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will soon own a small tract of land in Franklin that sits adjacent to the historic and culturally-significant Nikwasi Mound. During the regular Budget Council session on Tuesday, Aug. 1, Tribal Council approved legislation to purchase the land, approximately 0.59 acres, for $400,000 from Mainspring Conservation Trust, Inc., a non-profit organization.
“I am happy to have the support of the Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in providing for the purchase of land adjacent to the Nikwasi Mound in Franklin, North Carolina,” said Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed. “It is important to our people to protect our heritage and acquiring an important parcel of land will ensure that future generations of Cherokee people have access to our historic sites. We are happy to partner with Mainspring Conservation Trust to create a heritage corridor which provides recreation and teaches Cherokee history.”
According to the legislation, which passed on Tuesday by a 10-0 vote (Big Cove Reps. Richard French and Teresa McCoy were absent for this vote), “…the land and improvements purchased by the Tribe shall be used to preserve the significant historical and cultural value of said lands, promote awareness and education of Cherokee history and culture, and be explored for potential economic development and/or cultural preservation activities.”
In the same legislation, Tribal Council authorized $100,000 be used from Endowment Fund No. 2 “for the purpose of assessing the highest and best use of the land and improvements for cultural preservation and economic development opportunities.”
Russell Townsend, EBCI tribal historic preservation officer, gives a brief historical account of the site. “Nikwasi Mound is a Mississipian period mound that is likely 800 to 900 years old. It was built by ancestors of modern Cherokee people, and several ancient Cherokee stories are associated with it. The best known story is that of the ‘spirit warriors’ who come from inside the mound to protect the community in time of need. It is said that happened in pre-Colonial times as well as during the American Civil War.”
He added, “There are currently 25 archaeologically-known mounds in western North Carolina. These mounds were seemingly built over the past 3,000 years.”
Of those 25, Townsend said the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians currently owns the following mounds: Kituwah, Cowee, Nvnvnyi, Birdtown, and Talulah.
In recent years, tribal officials have advocated purchasing the Mound itself. In the spring of 2012, maintenance workers with the Town of Franklin sprayed herbicide on the Mound leaving dead, brown grass. This angered many within the Tribe.
“I would rather own the mound and let us take care of it,” then-Principal Chief Michell Hicks told the One Feather in May 2012. “That would be my preference because I know that we’ll do the right thing. The right thing to do, just like Kituwah, just like Cowee, is to bring it back into the hands of its original owners.”
Nikwasi Mound was put on the National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 26, 1980. It is listed in the Register as Nequasee.
A request for comment from Mainspring Conservation Trust went unanswered by press time.