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ETSU anthropology professor to give talk on Cherokee Indian heritage in East Tennessee

November 1st, 2013 10:52 am by Contributed to the Press

ETSU anthropology professor to give talk on Cherokee Indian heritage in East Tennessee


“Cherokee Towns of Boone Lake” and “Protecting Our Heritage on TVA Land” will be the topics of a free public lecture at the East Tennessee State University and General Shale Natural History Museum and Visitor Center at the Gray Fossil Site Saturday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. 


The talk will be led by Dr. Jay Franklin, Associate Professor of Anthropology at ETSU and Erin Pritchard, Archaeological Specialist with the Tennessee Valley Authority. 


There has long been an assumption that the Cherokee Indians lived throughout East Tennessee. This idea is largely based on vague historical accounts and scattered artifacts, and many of these accounts refer to small groups camping or hunting in the area. 


“Scientists now have firm archaeological evidence of thriving Cherokee towns in our region that span perhaps 300 years or more,” said Franklin. “Some of these towns may have been here quite early, in fact, dating to about 1450.”


Franklin has led excavations at these sites and will talk about the evidence of the Cherokee towns located in East Tennessee. 


However, much of the evidence is endangered by illegal and ill-advised digging by non-archaeologists. Scientists have an opportunity to explore 300 years of Cherokee history, but archaeologists and the public must protect these sites and be sure they are investigated in a thoughtful and systematic manner so researchers have the opportunity to fully understand each site’s deep history. 


“These archaeological sites must not only be investigated, they must be protected in order to reconstruct their histories,” said Franklin.


“That’s where the Tennessee Valley Authority comes in,” said Pritchard. “Archaeological sites on TVA fee-owned land are protected by the Archaeological Resource Protection Act which makes it illegal to remove, damage, or destroy artifacts, features, or other archaeological resources on federal and Indian lands. I will discuss how and why TVA protects these sensitive resources across the valley, including its managed lands on Boone Reservoir.”

The TVA manages nearly 300,000 acres of public land rich in cultural heritage.  As a part of its responsibilities under the National Historic Preservation Act, the Archaeological Resource Protection Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, TVA must manage these lands for the benefit of the resource, the American public, and the groups whose ancestors once inhabited the Tennessee Valley.   


Franklin is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His research interests include the prehistory of Southern Appalachia, Cherokee archaeology, cave and rock shelter archaeology, and Paleolithic and medieval archaeology in France. Franklin has active research projects on the Upper Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee, upper East Tennessee, and France, and new a project in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina.


Pritchard has been with TVA since 2000. Currently, her work focuses on planning and implementing TVA cultural resource programs related to archaeological resource management and protection pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act and the Archaeological Resource Protection Act. She is the editor of TVA Archaeology:  Seventy Years of Prehistoric Site Research.


The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  For more information, or to arrange special assistance for those with disabilities, call (866) 202-6223.


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