Cherokee language is spoken again at Old Chattooga Town

by Sep 8, 2023COMMUNITY sgadugi0 comments


RTCAR director


The Cherokee Language Master’s Apprentice Program (CLMAP) students from Robbinsville visited Old Chattooga Town deep in Sumter National Forest in South Carolina on Wednesday, Sept. 6.  The group received historical information on the bus from Anita Finger-Smith, Kathi Littlejohn, Lamar Marshall, and Robin Swayney as the group visited sites such as St John’s Episcopal Church in Franklin and Nikwasi on the way home.

Kathi Littlejohn, standing left, an elder of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, talks to the Cherokee Language Master’s Apprentice Program students from Robbinsville at Chattooga Town on Wednesday, Sept. 6. (Photo by Adam Griffith/RTCAR)

Lunchtime at the beautiful site featured presenters Nicole Hayler and Buzz Williams with the Chattooga Conservancy, USFS (U.S. Forest Service) District Ranger Robert Sitzlar, and USFS District Archeologist Jason Moser.  Students learned about the history of the site, and the education components were supplemented by information and translations from first language Cherokee speaker Leroy Littlejohn.  The area previously had significant river cane – Jim Long harvested there years ago – and the Chattooga Conservancy is working with the USFS to manage the area to promote cane growth again.

Participants learned Chattooga Town was inhabited until 1735, when the townhouse was burned.  Census data report Cherokee populations of 90 in about 1720 and archeological information from the University of Tennessee excavations indicates the townhouse was of the same size, layout, and plan.  The site is unique in the large number of pipestems excavated made from local soapstone and kaolin.  Nearly 20,000 ceramic sherds were recovered, and the material remains boxed at the University of Tennessee.

The trip was conceived by the Chattooga Conservancy, a non-profit advocating for the protection of the Chattooga watershed and funded in-part by the Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources (RTCAR) through a grant to the Chattooga Conservancy.  The Tennessee Valley Authority contributed generously to fund the bus and lunch was provided courtesy of the EBCI (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) Cooperative Extension.  RTCAR is partially funded by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. The trip was part of a grant requirement.