In honor of Indigenous People's Day, Eastern Band of Cherokee museum renamed to the Museum of the Cherokee People
In honor of Indigenous People’s Day, the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s history museum announced a new name: the Museum of the Cherokee People.
The change is just one English word, Shana Bushyhead Condill, executive director of the museum, formerly known as the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, explained. However, that one word makes a big difference.
“We have been, for so long, seen as relics of the past. And the word ‘Indian’ of course is very dated. It’s also very incorrect,” Condill said in a video on the museum’s website. “It’s not something that we would ever say publicly as a descriptor of ourselves. Adding the word “people” literally personifies who we are as Cherokee people, and it makes it harder to relegate us to the past when we use that word.”
The museum’s name has also been updated in Cherokee to ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᏗᏴᏫᏯᎯ ᎢᎦᏤᎵ ᎤᏪᏘ ᎠᏍᏆᏂᎪᏙᏗ (Tsalagi idiyvwiyahi igatseli uweti asquanigododi): Museum of the Cherokee People. According to the museum website, the expression translates to: All of us are Cherokee people. It is all of ours, where the old things are stored.
Local author and museum board member Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, said the change is critically important.
“For all cultures you have to keep growing and changing or you die, and the museum is no exception. I think the rebrand of the name, giving it back to the people and considering the Cherokee people as a community as opposed to this outside representation of who we are is critical to our growth, as a culture even,” she said.
Clapsaddle was the first member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee to become a published novelist when “Even As We Breathe” was published in 2020.
The re-naming of the museum coincides with a rebrand of the museum including a new color scheme inspired by the bright colors of the local flora and fauna of the region. Graphic designer and former Miss Cherokee Tyra Maney led the redesign. In January, the museum celebrated its 75th anniversary, the Cherokee One Feather reported.
The change is the latest in a series by the museum. In 2022, staff decided to remove sacred and funeral-related items from public view and replace them with modern art produced by Cherokee artists through an ongoing exhibit called, “Disruption.”
“What we know is that when objects are fully intact — if it's pottery, or effigy pots, or that kind of a thing, gorgets — that generally they come from a grave site,” Condill told BPR in 2023. “I would rather default to removing objects from view than to have something mistakenly on view.”
In 2022, tribal council designated a piece of land in Swain County for a museum collections archive facility. The collection will be near the Kituwah Mound, the Cherokee One Feather reported.
The last renovation took place at the museum in 1998. Design of a new permanent exhibit is underway with public input from the community including nine listening sessions for community members across the Qualla Boundary and Cherokee County through December.