Cherokee museum awarded grants for main exhibit update

News release from the Museum of the Cherokee People:

The Museum of the Cherokee People (MotCP), the tribal museum of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, has been awarded major grants that will support its endeavors to authentically share Cherokee history and culture, steward a place of connection and healing for the Cherokee community, and stand out as a leading example of Native self-representation in museums.

A Responsive Grant from the Henry Luce Foundation in amount of $225,000 will support the design and interpretation of a new main exhibit that tells the Cherokee story from a Cherokee perspective. A $150,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation will support research and development for programming an offsite collections facility that will include community resources like a seed bank and ceremonial grounds. These awards follow a spring 2023 grant of $75,000 from the Terra Foundation for American Art to advance scholarly research to inform new interpretation forged through community input and development and scholarly research by Native scholars.

Henry Luce Foundation Responsive Grant

A Henry Luce Foundation Responsive Grant will fund research teams, consisting of three researchers and one lead researcher, with oversight provided by a Museum Interpretation Advisory Board composed of seven scholars, the majority Indigenous. Funding also supports conceptual designs of the main galleries, including proposed programming, thematic layout, and proposed budget for fabrication and installation. With this funding, the Museum will improve the ways it serves its community, educates its visitors, and create an example of how to approach Indigenous-led research and curation in the museum field.

The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to deepen knowledge and understanding in pursuit of a more democratic and just world. Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., the Luce Foundation advances its mission by nurturing knowledge communities and institutions, fostering dialogue across divides, enriching public discourse, amplifying diverse voices, and investing in leadership development. A leader in arts funding since 1982, the Luce Foundation’s American Art Program advances the role of American art in realizing more vibrant and empathetic communities. Through support for innovative projects, it empowers institutions to celebrate creativity, elevate underrepresented voices, challenge accepted histories, and seek common ground.

“The Luce Foundation is grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Museum of the Cherokee People in support of this exciting project to re-envision the primary galleries with a presentation entirely and deeply informed by Cherokee life and culture, and the voices of the Cherokee communities,” Henry Luce Foundation Program Director for American Art Terry Carbone said.

Duke Energy Foundation Grant

A grant from the Duke Energy Foundation will support building an offsite collections facility to safely and securely house Cherokee archives, object collections, a seed bank, and collections of important plants native to Cherokee ancestral homelands. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians designated land for this facility near Kituwah, Mother Town of the Cherokee, in 2022. The future space will serve the Cherokee community, artists, makers and researchers, advancing Cherokee scholarship and the reclamation of traditional knowledge.

“It’s an honor to support the Cherokee people and the Museum of the Cherokee People’s historical and biodiversity preservation facility,” said Lisa Leatherman, District Manager, Duke Energy. “This project will serve the community, artists, makers and researchers and help connect us to not only to the past but the future. We look forward to this project and learning more from our Cherokee neighbors.”

The Duke Energy Foundation provides grants to charitable nonprofit organizations in alignment with the Foundation’s four main areas of focus: the Environment, Economic Development, Education and Community Vitality.

The Power of Self-Representation

By telling the Cherokee story from a Cherokee perspective, Museum leadership aspires to enrich its community’s understanding of its own history, culture, and stories, and provide a deeper, truthful understanding of Cherokee people for non-Native visitors.

“The Museum sees self-representation as vital in assisting to heal trauma that has occurred through the process of colonization,” says Director of Education Dakota Brown (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians). “Understanding our story as people will enrich our shared identity and demonstrate the value that each Cherokee person has within our communities.”

In its updated exhibit—which will replace the Museum’s main exhibit that was on view from 1998 to December 29, 2023—the Museum intends to directly address the stereotype barriers in understanding Native people and create a transformative experience for non-Native visitors.

“By creating educational opportunities for our visitors to take on a deeper understanding of Cherokee people, we can foster these connections in hopes that our non-Cherokee visitors will become allies,” Brown says.

As the tribal museum of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Museum of the Cherokee People serves its Cherokee community on the Qualla Boundary and its estimated 83,000 annual visitors from around the world. The Museum’s main exhibit closed on December 29, 2023 to prepare for a full renovation. Learn more about the Museum and its programs at

About the Museum of the Cherokee People

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1948, the Museum of the Cherokee People is one of the longest-operating tribal museums in the country. Located in Cherokee, North Carolina on the Qualla Boundary, the sovereign land of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and ancestral homelands of all Cherokees, the Museum shares the history, culture, and stories of the Cherokee people through its exhibitions, collections, and programs. Learn more at

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