Cherokee face ‘existential struggle’ in marketplace

“There’s a cultural amnesia about what it means to be Native American, says Cherokee woodcarver Christy Long. ‘When you look at what people understand about a nativeyou get people who only understand natives from [a] romantic point of view.’

“Such misconceptions mean tourists to Cherokee seek headdresses and dreamcatchers — neither of which are native to the tribe. That doesn’t mean, however, that headdresses and dreamcatchers aren’t sold. ‘When you’re trying to make a living, you still have to look at those things that people will purchase, so that you can make money to feed your family,’ says Long. ‘It’s [an] existential struggle for a native person.’ ”

— From “Cherokee artists consider life beyond the mountains” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (Dec. 22)

From the Miscellany vault: Examples of Cherokee image vs. reality in postcards and pinback buttons.

 

‘What of a state’ that refuses to accept fair criticism?

“[I am] pained at the implication in your letter that I was ashamed of North Carolina — only what is N.C. willing to do for me? I don’t think there is a place there now for anyone who cares for anything besides Rotary and Lions and Boosters Clubs, real-estate speculation, ‘heap much’ money, social fawning, good roads, new mills — what, in a word, they choose to call ‘Progress, Progress, Progress.’.…

“N.C. needs honest criticism — rather than the false, shallow ‘we-are-the-finest-state-and-greatest-people-in-the-country’ kind of thing. An artist who refuses to accept fair criticism of his work will never go far. What of a state?.…”

— From Thomas Wolfe’s letter to his mother, Julia, on April 21, 1924. Excerpted in “Thomas Wolfe v. the state of North Carolina, 1924” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (July 19, 2016).

Wolfe, 23, had just begun teaching at New York University.  It would be another five years before publication of “Look Homeward, Angel.”