For two days in June——Thursday, the 6th from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and Friday, the 7th from 12 to 1:30 p.m., the Orchard at Altapass will host Cherokee artisans who will demonstrate their craft and share their rich cultural heritage with the public. Both events, sponsored with the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, Blue Ridge Traveler, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and the National Forest Service, will offer visitors an opportunity to experience the culture of the Cherokee, native to Western North Carolina, through song, dance, storytelling, and crafts.

Mike Crowe and the Cherokee Dancers, known as the Warriors of AniKituhwa, will perform on Thursday, June 6, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. These multi-talented members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, an autonomous sovereign nation, have performed at Colonial Williamsburg, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, throughout the Southeast, and even at the London New Year’s Day Parade. They will bring traditional song, dance, and stories of their living history, culture, and language.

Crowe sees his work as a cultural specialist for the Cherokee crucial to preserving their heritage. He can trace his own lineage back to the 17th century when their written records began. In addition to learning Cherokee culture and history from his family, he spent 12 years working at the Oconaluftee Indian Village—a replica of an 18th century Cherokee Indian village and historical museum. Since honing his knowledge and understanding of the Cherokee, both past and present, he now devotes most of his time to perpetuating and preserving its history and culture.

On Friday, June 7, from 12:30 to 1:30, both Crowe and Cherokee artisan Ramona Lossie will share Cherokee stories while demonstrating flint knapping (a process of chipping away silica stones—flintto produce sharp projectile points or tools) and basket-weaving, respectively. Lossie grew up in the Painttown community in Cherokee, learning the art of basket-weaving from her mother and grandmother. Several years ago, her knowledge of the river cane (a type of bamboo) basket-weaving tradition became crucial as the number of remaining practitioners of the craft among the Eastern Band dwindled to two—she and her sister Lucille. By sharing her skill with others in classes and workshops, the tradition has, once again, become firmly rooted in the community.

Her work has won blue ribbons at festivals in Chicago and in New Mexico, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. She has been featured in an Atlanta newspaper. Her baskets are on display at the Smithsonian Institution and in museums in Albuquerque, Chicago, Atlanta, and in Florida.

Both the Thursday evening performance and “The History of the Cherokee in the Toe River Valley,” will celebrate the preservation of Cherokee cultural heritage. Tickets for the Thursday performance from 6 to 7:30 p.m. are $10 and available at the door. The Friday mid-day demonstrations are free. The public, encouraged to attend both events, will walk away with a new perspective of the vibrant Cherokee traditions and the people who dedicate their lives to see that they continue for future generations.
For more information, please visit www.altapassorchard.org and visit the Facebook page for current updates and happenings. The Orchard at Altapass, located at 1025 Orchard Road, Spruce Pine (mile marker 328.3 on the Blue Ridge Parkway), is a nonprofit working orchard, educational, and entertainment venue dedicated to the preservation of the Orchard lands and the culture of the region.

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