The Smithsonian Institution tours an inspirational story of Franklin and Cherokee around the country

Press release from Nikwasi Initiative:

The Smithsonian Institution tours an inspirational story of Franklin and Cherokee around the Country! The eminent museum has taken notice of the unique merits displayed in teamwork by individuals from Franklin and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to resolve past intercultural misunderstanding, especially after the herbicide incident at Noquisiyi (Nikwasi) Mound in 2012.


What an opportunity for our region! This local story will be featured in the all-new, SPARK! Places of Innovation traveling museum. This museum is scheduled to travel for six years, stopping in 24 states and 144 communities. And, the Noquisiyi story has been selected to be one of two featured stories out of 30 total. So, the work of our diligent residents will be displayed front and center.


The SPARK! Places of Innovation Museum has collected stories from diverse communities that implemented new ideas leading to innovations or inventions that change the community for the better. This is a new museum that is diving into community-driven innovation and invention, specifically in rural areas. The goal is to celebrate the rich American heritage of meeting challenges and seizing opportunities in unique ways, and also to provide inspiration for other places.


The project falls under the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) banner. It is a partnership of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and state humanities councils nationwide to bring high quality exhibitions to rural communities with fewer than 25,000 people. However, MoMS is so much more than just exhibitions! It is a rural outreach program offering diverse opportunities for small towns to highlight their unique stories through resources including traveling exhibitions, youth storytelling initiatives, build-it-yourself digital exhibitions, and oral history collecting tools.


This is unprecedented outreach for Franklin, Cherokee, and Noquisiyi. It opens the door for local groups and individuals to understand the value of investing in the new Cultural District. This creates the window for all local people to get behind the ongoing efforts at Noquisiyi. It will bring more resilient tourism and economic advancement to our region. Additionally, the program creates opportunities for school teachers to help students communicate with other rural towns, track the museum journey, or study a unique collaboration of local people working together to impart positive change.


The local story will highlight the collaborative efforts that led to the deed transfer and the formation of Nikwasi Initiative, within the context of the single herbicide issue and extended conflicts. Viewers will see the area around Noquisiyi as a “place of mingling” where different viewpoints can reside together.

Elaine Eisenbraun, Executive Director of Nikwasi Initiative said, “While the Native American story is often told (albeit frequently inaccurately), it is rarely told in its relationship to the Settler story. The link between these two populations is bound across the centuries. It is a connection that needs nurturing and must be shared to all people of our Country in order to create the intercultural understanding that will awaken relationships and friendships.  As our Nation navigates the tenuous path of cultural awakening, this is the kind of story that will help people to recognize that we are all caring human beings, only we travel with diverse experiences.”

The museum will tell the collaboration story via two or more videos, images, narratives, augmented reality, and interactive displays.


Carol Harsh is the Director of the SPARK! Places of Innovation. She commented that, “Spark! Places of Innovation is a new traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution that will explore innovation happening in rural America. The exhibition will travel from 2023 to 2029, sharing these stories with thousands of visitors in rural communities throughout America. We are delighted to be working with the Nikwasi Initiative to include in the exhibition the story of how people from different backgrounds and perspectives in Franklin, North Carolina came together to create an innovative long-term collaboration that has resulted in intercultural awareness and understanding. This is an important and inspirational story to share.”


Noquisiyi, the Mound in Franklin, has witnessed the ‘burning out’ of Native people several times by British and Americans to make room for settlers. It was confiscated along with other property at Native American Removal in 1838. Then a systematic spraying of herbicide across the mound killed all the living plants on the site and provoked long-buried tensions. But sometimes, disaster leads to new solutions. It is this story and the ongoing work to honor this storied site that will travel around the country.


Today, Juanita Wilson, a registered member of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Bob McCollum, of Franklin, co-chair Nikwasi Initiative. The organization is comprised of a balanced mix of Cherokee and non-Cherokee members to continue building bridges and accomplishing new projects.  Bob says, “I’m very proud to see our communities recognized for building bridges and partnerships. Through the “SPARK! Places of Innovation” project we can be a role model for the entire nation.”

Nikwasi Initiative preserves, protects, and promotes culture and heritage in the original homelands of the Cherokee.

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