🇺🇸 Cherokee is a place in Swain and Jackson counties in Western North Carolina, United States, within the Qualla Boundary land trust. Cherokee is located in the Oconaluftee River Valley around the intersection of U.S. Routes 19 and 441. It is the capital of the federally recognised Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, one of three recognised Cherokee tribes and the only one in North Carolina.
The community also serves as a tourist destination, with numerous campgrounds, motels, and hotels serving visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with a major entrance to the park lying within the community. Cherokee serves as the southern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Oconaluftee River serves as a major water sports destination, and the Oconaluftee Indian Village, a living-history museum, hosts the popular outdoor drama Unto These Hills.
Economy The EBCI negotiated an agreement with the state, and in 1997 opened Harrah's Cherokee Casino for gaming. It has generated jobs and revenue for the tribe, providing money that the EBCI applies to its people's education, welfare and culture. In 2005, nearly four million people visited the casino and generated a per capita profit of roughly $8,000 annually. Each member of the tribe is paid some annual income; the tribe reinvests other moneys for health and related services, and long-term development.
Since the late 20th century, most manufacturing and textile plants left the area, moving their jobs offshore to lower wage areas, such as Southeast Asia. The regional economy suffered. Many of the Cherokee had to rely on jobs related to national park tourism and recreation, which provided work for about half of the year. Many tribal members had to rely on public assistance to survive during the winter.
Tourist Industry Cherokee is a tourist-oriented area, located at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. In addition to the casino, it is the site of attractions such as: • Cherokee Botanical Garden and Nature Trail • Trail to Mount Guyot • Museum of the Cherokee Indian • Oconaluftee Indian Village • Oconaluftee (Great Smoky Mountains) • Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual • Oconaluftee River.
Eastern Cherokee history, culture, and crafts are portrayed in the historical drama Unto These Hills, presented annually during the tourist season.
The Cherokee area offers many campgrounds, trails and river adventures. It is also home to three roadside attractions with zoos: Cherokee Bear Zoo, Chief Saunooke Bear Park, and Santa's Land. The zoos have been considered controversial. Bob Barker, a retired game show host and animal rights activist, has called for closing the black bear zoos at these attractions.
Cherokee Wonderland and Frontier Land were two amusement parks that operated in the area in the late 1960s and into the early 21st century, respectively. The latter was converted into a water park before being closed to make way for development of Harrah's Cherokee. When they were open, both parks featured their own 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroads (named Cherokee Wonderland Railroad and Frontier Land Railroad).
Cherokee has a population of over 2,138 people. Cherokee also forms part of the wider Swain and Jackson counties which has a population of over 57,546 people. It is also a part of the larger North Carolina state.